A division bench of Kerala Lok Ayukta on Friday referred a case involving chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan over alleged misuse of the chief minister’s disaster relief fund (CMDRF) to a larger bench following a difference of opinion between the judges.
Justice Cyriac Joseph and justice Harun Ul-Rashid said the matter is being referred to a three-judge bench as there was a difference of opinion whether the decisions of the cabinet can be subjected to its investigation and also on the merits of the case.
The state Lok Ayukta is hearing a plea filed in 2018 by activist and former member of Kerala University senate R S Sasikumar, alleging that the families of late Nationalist Congress Party leader Uzhavoor Vijayan and a deceased police officer were provided financial assistance using funds from CMDRF by the Left Democratic Front government.
The petitioner said that while Uzhavoor Vijayan’s daughter was given ₹25 lakh in 2017, ₹20 lakh was given to the family of a policeman who was killed in an accident involving the pilot car in the convoy of former party secretary late Kodiyeri Balakrishnan in 2018.
Sasikumar also alleged that the debts of late CPI(M) legislator K Ramachandran were taken care of during this period – ₹8 lakh was given to his family to take back gold mortgaged in a bank and ₹6 lakh to waive a car loan he had taken, using the disaster relief funds.
None of the cases cited above came under the norms of those eligible for funds from CMDRF and the diversion of funds is a clear case of misuse of power, the petitioner said.
Chief minister Vijayan, then chief secretary Tom Jose and 18 ministers who were part of the government then were arraigned as respondents.
The petitioner sought that the disbursed amount be recovered from those who were responsible for the “diversion” and their actions be declared “illegal and illegitimate”.
While the trial in the matter ended in March last year, the final verdict was delayed for a year, prompting the petitioner to approach the high court last week.
The high court, however, asked the petitioner to approach the Lok Ayukta first and then return to the court if continued to have some reservations.
Opposition parties criticised the decision of the Lok Ayukta to refer the matter to a larger bench.
“It is sad that after sitting over it for a year, the case was referred to a larger bench. There were many attempts to intimidate members and we suspect belligerent moves might have forced them to take such a decision,” opposition leader V D Satheesan said.
BJP state president K Surendran said the latest decision clearly showed “there was a strong case against the chief minister”.
The petitioner said he will move the high court again to expedite the case. “It is a clear case of misuse of power and corruption. I will go to any extent to get justice,” Sasikumar said.
On the court’s order, CPI(M) state secretary M V Govindan said: “Now the opposition says judges were intimidated and threatened. It is a baseless allegation. Do you think judges can be threatened like this?”