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Judgement "bizarre," Lokayukta losing its credibility: Congress' Satheesan on fund 'misuse' case against Kerala CM

Kochi: Kerala Leader of the Opposition VD Satheesan on Friday termed as "bizarre" the verdict of the Lokayukta in a case alleging misuse of the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF).

"This is a very bizarre, unfortunate, and strange judgement. This will destroy the credibility of an anti-corruption mechanism in Kerala. And the Lokayukta is losing its credibility. This is the last resort of the people against corruption. There is no other mechanism in the state", LoP Satheesan said during a press briefing. LoP asked, "They are having differences of opinion. Why should they send it to the full bench on merit? Can they not send it on maintainability questions? The maintainability question is already decided."

"The complainant filed this case in 2018 and in 2019, then after three years, in 2022, the case was still before the Court. And from 2022 February 5th to March 18th, there were arguments from both sides on merit, not on maintainability. But unfortunately, after completing the arguments on March 18th, the judgement was reserved. After one year, it is still pending", Satheesan said.

The opposition leader alleged that even after one year the judgement was delivered only after the complainant approached the High Court. The HC asked the complainant to approach the Lokayukta. And it was then the Lokayukta delivered the judgement. Satheesan then questioned the one-year gap of the case.
Satheesan further stated "So after filing this case, one of the ministers in the last cabinet, Dr KT Jaleel threatened and defamed Lokayukta continuously. It was pressure from the Government side on the Lokayukta. They have been threatening with the permission of the Chief Minister."

"Again the Chief Minister brought another bill to amend, the Lokayukta Bill. But the Governor has not given his assent so far. That is pending. So the Government has been trying to skip from this judgement through many means. First, KT Jaleel threatened the Lokayukta. Second, they brought the Lokayukta amendment bill", Satheesan said in the press briefing.

"You can see the future of this case. This may continue just like the Lavlin case pending before the Supreme Court. It may continue till the tenure of Pinarayi Vijayan, the Chief Minister of Kerala. Or this may extend to a position when the Governor is ready to sign the amendment bill. So this is very unfortunate", he said.
Earlier today, the Lokayukta referred the case against Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan over the alleged misappropriation of the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF) to a larger bench of Kerala Lokayukta.

Following a difference of opinion between judges, the case has been referred to a three-member bench of the Lokayukta. Justice Cyriac Joseph and Justice Harun Ul-Rashid of the Lokayukta attended the case.

The order stated, "As there is a difference of opinion between us on the basic issue of whether the action of respondents in taking the impugned decisions as members of the Cabinet can be subjected to investigation under the provisions of the Kerala Lok Ayukta Act, 1999 and on the merits of the allegations raised by the complainant, we are constrained to place this complaint for investigation by the Lok Ayukta and both the Upa-Lok Ayuktas together as required under Section 7(1) of the Kerala Lok Ayukta Act, 1999."

The case has been posted before a Bench consisting of the Lokayukta and both the Upa-Lokayuktas on a date to be fixed by the Lokayukta.
RS Sasikumar, a former Syndicate member of the University of Kerala filed a petition on January 14, 2019, alleging that the money from the CMDRF was given to those who were not supposed to get the relief. His plea asked for the amount to be recovered from those involved and be declared disqualified.

Sasikumar in his complaint alleged corruption, nepotism and favouritism on the part of the respondents on several occasions.
Apart from the Chief Minister, 18 ministers from the first LDF government (2016-21) and the then Chief Secretary were named respondents. (ANI)

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