A three-member full bench of Kerala Lokayukta on Monday rejected a case registered against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and others in connection with the alleged nepotism and anomalies in releasing aid from the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF) during the previous Left Democratic Front (LDF) regime.
The verdict in the case was much awaited in the state’s political circles as the anti-corruption body had completed its hearing in March last year. In April this year, Lokayukta had referred the matter to a three-member bench for a final verdict, as there was a difference of opinion between two judges of the body.
In 2018, R S Sasikumar, a former Syndicate member of Kerala University, complained against Vijayan and his then 17 Cabinet colleagues about the misuse of CMDRF. At present, among the respondents, only Vijayan remains in office.
The crux of the petition was that the government had allegedly allotted Rs 25 lakh to the family of the NCP leader late Uzhavoor Vijayan. It was also alleged that the family of the late CPI(M) legislator Ramachandran Nair was given Rs 8.5 lakh from the CMDRF towards the cost of repaying a gold loan and vehicle loan and that Nair’s son was given a job with the state electricity board.
In another alleged violation, Rs 20 lakh was given to the wife of a civil police officer who died in an accident while on escort duty for Kodiyeri Balakrishnan who was the CPI(M) state secretary then.
The Assembly had passed the Kerala Lok Ayukta (Amendment) Bill, 2022, a legislation that limits the powers of the state’s anti-corruption watchdog. The highlight of the amendment was the change in a section in the Kerala Lok Ayukta Act, 1999, which required a public servant to vacate office if directed by the Lokayukta. The amendment had hogged the limelight since the case has been pending against Vijayan and others.
In 2021, following a verdict of the Lokayukta, then minister in the LDF regime, K T Jaleel, was forced to resign. Jaleel had faced the allegation of nepotism in appointments.
The Kerala Lok Ayukta Amendment Bill is pending ratification by the Governor.