In a big relief for the Pinarayi Vijayan government in Kerala, a three-member full bench of Lok Ayukta rejected a case against the chief minister and the ministers from his last cabinet for alleged misuse of the Chief Minister Disaster Relief Fund (CMDRF).
The verdict was pronounced on a petition filed by R.S. Sasikumar, a former syndicate member of Kerala University, in 2018.
In his petition, Sasikumar had alleged favouritism and anomalies in granting aid from the CMDRF. He had specifically highlighted three instances: Rs 25 lakh was earmarked for the educational expenses of the children of late NCP leader Uzhavoor Vijayan; Rs 8.5 lakh was granted to the family of late K.K. Ramachandran Nair, the former MLA of Chengannur, to cover the costs of repaying a gold loan and a vehicle loan and his son was appointed as an assistant engineer in the electricity board; Rs 20 lakh, accompanied by a government job and other benefits, was provided to the widow of a civil police officer who lost his life in an accident involving the pilot vehicle of the then CPI(M)M state secretary, late Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.
The LokAyukta had finished hearing in the case in March, 2022 and the state's political circles had been eagerly anticipating a final verdict since then. With no verdict announced in the case even a year after the division bench had reserved the orders, Sasikumar submitted a petition to the High Court, contesting the purportedly unexplained delay.
Subsequently, on March 31 this year—following a disagreement in the division bench—the Lok ayukta referred the case to a full bench. In August, the High Court upheld the LokAyukta order referring the case to the full bench.
Today, the full bench consisting of Lok ayukta Justice Cyriac Joseph and Deputy Lokayuktas Justice Haroon Al Rashid and Justice Babu Mathew P. Joseph passed the order that the chief minister is vested with the authority to allocate money from the CMDRF, and that there is no evidence for favouritism or that the funds released to the families of late leaders were politically motivated decisions.
The LokAyukta asserted that CM has the right to grant a maximum amount of Rs 3 lakh from the relief fund. Aid above Rs 3 lakh would require cabinet approval.
Another interim petition filed by the petitioner asking two Deputy Lokayuktas to recuse themselves from the case was also rejected today. The petitioner had filed this petition after the two Deputy Lok Ayuktas had released the biography of K.K. Ramachandran Nair.