“Misuse” of CMDRF: Kerala Lok Ayukta Rejects Plea to Recall Order Referring Matter to Larger Bench

 The Kerala Lok Ayukta on Wednesday rejected a plea seeking recall of its recent order referring to a larger bench a matter regarding the alleged misuse of the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF) by CM Pinarayi Vijayan and his cabinet colleagues.

Lok Ayukta Justice Cyriac Joseph and Upa-Lok Ayukta Justice Harun-Ul-Rashid dismissed the application for recall saying that it was not maintainable as the anti-corruption agency could only review its decisions or orders on interlocutory applications.

The Lok Ayukta said that its order of March 31, which was sought to be reviewed, was not an order passed on any interlocutory application and therefore, “an application for review or recall of the said order will not lie”.

On March 31 a division bench of the Kerala Lok Ayukta had a difference of opinion on whether the Cabinet decisions by the Chief Minister and his council of ministers can be investigated under the provisions of the Kerala Lok Ayukta Act and whether there was any merit in the allegations by complainant R S Sasikumar.

The bench had referred the issues to a larger bench and against that Sasikumar had moved the review plea.

Dismissing the application, the Lok Ayukta said that the March 31 order was not on the maintainability of the complaint, but rather on whether the alleged actions of the Chief Minister and the ministers can be probed under the Kerala Lok Ayukta Act.

“Even if the complaint is maintainable, the public servant concerned may be entitled to immunity or protection from investigation. The issue of whether such immunity or protection is available or not can be decided only after issuing notice to the public servant and hearing him,” it said.

It further said that the question whether the decision taken by the cabinet can be investigated under the Kerala Lok Ayukta Act is a question relating to the root of the matter.

The bench also said that there was no law or provision under the Kerala Lok Ayukta Act which mandated that the reasons for the difference of opinion or the individual views of the two judges had to be spelled out in the order.

“For the reasons stated above, the application is not maintainable. We also find that the applicant (Sasikumar) has not made out any valid or sufficient ground to recall the order dated March 31, 2023 which is a perfectly legal and valid order strictly in compliance with the provisions of Section 7(1) of the Kerala Lok Ayukta Act, 1999,” it said.

Sasikumar, after the order was pronounced, said he would file an appeal against the same.

In his complaint, he had alleged that the Chief Minister and his council of ministers had “abused their position as public servants, that they were actuated by personal interest and corrupt motives and that they were guilty of corruption, favouritism and nepotism”.

The Lok Ayukta had admitted the complaint in January 2019.

The complaint by Sasikumar had alleged “favouritism” in sanctioning financial aid from the fund to NCP leader late Uzhavoor Vijayan, former CPI(M) MLA, late K K Ramachandran Nair and to the family of Praveen a civil police officer who died in an accident while undertaking escort duty for ruling CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.

The complainant sought disqualification of the Chief Minister and the other ministers for misusing the fund.

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