After NRI’s suicide, Kerala govt plans to curb power of local body secretaries

Shaju Philip
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan

Rocked by the suicide of an NRI investor, reportedly over red-tape experienced at a CPM-ruled municipality in the state, the Kerala government is considering curtailing power of secretaries of local self-governing bodies.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the Assembly about the state government s plans regarding this while replying to an adjournment motion moved by the Opposition.

Vijayan also tried to defend the CPM leadership, which ostensibly played a role in denying sanction for a convention centre at Anthoor municipality in Kannur district.

Sajan Parayail, an NRI investor, committed suicide last week, allegedly after the municipality denied occupancy certificate for his Rs 15-crore convention centre. His family had alleged that municipal chairperson P K Shyamala, who is also wife of CPM central committee member M V Govindan, had told Sajan that the project would not get final sanction as long as she is the civic body’s chairperson.

READ | Kerala: Four municipal officials suspended over NRI businessman s death

Shyamala was allegedly irked over Sajan maintaining direct links with the party s district leadership in Kannur.

On Monday, Vijayan told the Assembly that as per the Kerala Municipal and Panchayati Raj Act, only the secretary of a civic body has powers regarding building rules. If there are objections to the decisions of the secretary concerned, the local civic body can move an appeal only before the tribunal meant for local bodies, the Chief Minister pointed out.

Neither the council nor the chairperson has the right to hear any appeal. At present, a secretary can bypass recommendations of even an engineer. The government is planning to limit the power of a civic body secretary over recommendation of a technical expert, Vijayan said.

Vijayan said the government would ensure that secretaries of local bodies would study applications for permits in a single sweep, instead of seeking queries in a phased manner, and thus delaying the sanction.