Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan serves ‘food for controversy’ again — this time for retiring chief justice

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BySouth First Desk

Published Apr 21, 2023 | 11:32 AMUpdatedApr 21, 2023 | 11:32 AM

Pinarayi Vijayan Brahmapuram

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan seems to be serving “‘food for controversies” of late.

Close on the heels of a row over an Iftar he had hosted, Vijayan courted another controversy by throwing a farewell party to the outgoing Kerala High Court Justice S Manikumar.

The Iftar sparked a controversy after the Lokayukta and Upa Lokayukta attended the party. They attended the Iftar even as the anti-corruption ombudsman has been considering a case of diversion of the Chief Minister’s Disaster Relief Funds.

The the feast on Wednesday, 19 April, at the upmarket Leela Kovalam, a beachside resort, was a hush-hush affair — until it became public the next day.

The chief minister hosted the dinner — at the state’s expense, as critics claimed — at a time rumours of Justice Manikumar becoming the next chairman of Kerala’s Human Rights Commission were doing the rounds.

Tamil Nadu-native Justice Manikumar is to retire on Monday, 24 April. As chief justice, Manikumar had a cordial relationship with the government.

Also read: Political iftars, ‘missing’ Lokayukta and rabid dog remark leave Kerala both amused and distressed

Law Minister P Rajeeve, Finance Minister KN Balagopal, Revenue Minister K Rajan, Advocate General K Gopalakrishna Kurup, Chief Secretary VP Joy, and Additional Chief Secretary (Home and Vigilance) were among those who partook of the feast.

Opposition Leader VD Satheesan and, reportedly, several other ministers were neither informed nor invited to the party. Other judges of the high court were also not invited.

Normally, a full-court reference would be the sendoff for a retiring chief justice. In the case of Manikumar, such a reference was held in Kochi last week. Senior high court lawyers, too, organised a farewell function.

The Kovalam party became a controversy after social worker Sabu Stephen petitioned the Indian President and the the Chief Justice of India, saying that hosting such a party was in blatant violation of judicial rules, precedence, and several Supreme Court directives.

Opposition leader Satheesan sought an explanation from the government on the “secret” party.

He had also recalled an earlier instance of the CPI(M)’s student wing, the SFI, burning a retiring judge in effigy after he had ruled against Vijayan in the multi-crore SNC Lavalin corruption case.

Meanwhile, Rajeeve termed the farewell a non-political function.