Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan on Monday approved a contentious ordinance that curbs the powers of the state Lokayukta, The Indian Express reported.
The ordinance amends the Kerala Lokayukta Act, 1999, to allow the state government to “either accept or reject the verdict of the Lokayukta after an opportunity of being heard”.
The Lokayuka is appointed by the governor of a state to address complaints about working of the government and public servants.
Section 14 of the original Act mandates a public servant to leave office if the Lokayukta gives such a direction. The amendment means that a verdict of the Lokayukta will be of the nature of a recommendation, rather than being a binding decision.
Khan cleared the ordinance a day after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan explained to him the rationale for the ordinance in a meeting, PTI reported.
The Kerala government has argued that the original provision denied natural justice, as there was no provision for an appeal. The government has also cited two High Court judgements that have held that the Lokayukta’s jurisdiction involves making recommendations, rather than passing verdicts that have to be followed mandatorily.
Meanwhile, Kerala’s Leader of Opposition and Congress MLA VD Satheesan alleged that the governor and the state government have reached a pact to sign the ordinance, The New Indian Express reported.
Satheeshan claimed that Khan had signed the ordinance as he knew that the president would not approve it.
“With the governor signing the ordinance, the chief minister has nothing to worry when the Lokayukta takes up the [gold smuggling] case against him,” he said.
Last month, Kerala Law Minister P Rajeeve had said that as per constitutional provisions, there was no need for the president’s approval to make amendments to a law by passing of an ordinance, according to The New Indian Express.
“Part 3 of the 2013 Lokpal Act says states are required to implement it. It says Lokayukta rules are under the states’ jurisdiction and they have every right to bring changes to it,” he had said.