Allegations of state relief funds being mismanaged by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his government were today referred by the Lokayukta or anti-corruption watchdog to a larger bench after a difference between two judges.
Pinarayi Vijayan and several ministers are respondents in the case linked to allegations that the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF) was mishandled.
The Lokayukta took up the case today after the Kerala High Court asked the petitioner to approach the watchdog last week. Activist RS Sashi Kumar had appealed to the High Court for a decision, arguing that hearings in the case had been completed a year ago.
The petition alleges nepotism in the distribution of relief money - among the beneficiaries were the family of a CPI(M) legislator who had died, the family of Left ally who had died, and the family of a Kerala police officer who died in an accident while accompanying CPI(M) leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.
In 2019, while admitting the activist's complaint, the Kerala Lokayukta issued notice to Mr Vijayan and a few ministers.
The two judges were split on whether there is any merit in the allegations.
"As there is difference of opinion between us on the basic issue 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 judges said.
The Lokayukta is hearing the case against the Chief Minister at a time when a Bill that tweaked the powers of the state watchdog is pending with Governor Arif Mohammed Khan.
In April 2021, then State Higher Education Minister KT Jaleel had to quit after the Lokayukta verdict indicted him for misuse of official powers and nepotism.