On December 22, during the second day of court proceedings related to Mariyakkutty’s petition concerning the non-payment of her widow pension, the Kerala High Court handed a severe blow to the State government. The HC declared that Mariyakkutty, being a ‘VIP,’ should be entitled to receive her pension.
Government Counsel’s Controversial Allegations: The government’s legal counsel faced strong objections from the court when they insinuated that Mariyakkutty’s petition was politically motivated. The counsel further argued that the government could not grant pension to Mariyakkutty alone. However, the HC rebuked these claims, stating that insulting Mariyakkutty was distressing. Justice Devan Ramachandran went on to warn that such remarks could be officially recorded, urging the government counsel to withdraw the comments.
At one point, the High Court expressed its willingness to appoint an amicus curiae if necessary, emphasizing its commitment to ensuring justice for Mariyakkutty. The court firmly asserted that political motivations should not undermine an individual’s entitlement to essential benefits, especially in their old age.
Faced with the strong stance of the HC, the government counsel eventually withdrew their comments regarding the political nature of Mariyakkutty’s petition. This development highlighted the court’s commitment to upholding the dignity of the petitioner and ensuring a fair legal process.
Mariyakkutty’s legal battle for her rightful widow pension has become emblematic of broader issues related to governance, alleged nepotism, and the responsibilities of the state towards its elderly citizens. The HC’s intervention underscores the significance of ensuring that entitlements are not withheld based on political considerations.
Exposing Alleged Nepotism and Luxuries
The HC’s rebuke of the government’s counsel sheds light on the broader context of alleged nepotism and luxuries within the Pinarayi Vijayan-led administration. The legal proceedings have become a platform to scrutinise the government’s practices, raising questions about its commitment to the welfare of elderly citizens.
Images of Mariyakkutty and Annamma Ouseph, symbolising the struggles of elderly citizens, have garnered public and media attention. The court proceedings have become a focal point for discussions on governance, accountability, and the treatment of vulnerable segments of the population.
Implications for the Pinarayi Government: The landmark ruling by the Kerala High Court serves as a wake-up call for the Pinarayi Vijayan government, urging a reevaluation of its policies, especially concerning the elderly. The court’s firm stance against perceived political motivations in pension-related matters underscores the importance of impartiality and justice.
When the government counsel got angry with the Court stating that it (Court) issues orders to the government, Court said that the statement was too unfortunate. He said that no one should believe that whatever they see or read in social media is genuine. Justice Devan Ramachandran said he is not afraid of anything when he writes the order.
When the State government counsel stated that Mariyakkutty gets helps from others and then why did she move the HC, Mariyakkutty’s counsel said that her client does not need anyone’s free aid.
Justice Devan Ramachandran declared that taking into consideration the pathetic conditions of the people like Mariyakkutty, he would not participate in any X-mas celebrations this year. Court said that it can do the needful, if Mariyakkuktty needs, for assisting her to approach District Legal Services Authority.
Mariyakkutty’s counsel said she alone does not need a pension. She stands for several lakhs of others. Her counsel also asked about various cesses government collects; where does they go ? Counsel was indirectly wondering why the government is not using those money for paying pensions.
The situation the Government of Kerala’s counsel faced in the High Court (HC) of Kerala on December 21 was not much different. Justice Devan Ramachandran said that government should pay the pension; otherwise, the government should bear the expenses of Mariyakkutty for three months. HC did observe that 85-year-old Mariyakkutty approached the court as she had no other income to spend for medicines, food and electricity. The government has money to spend for lot of things. Court wondered, if not government, who is going to solve the petitioner’s problems. She is a senior citizen. She is asking only for Rs 1,600. Why are people like Mariyakkutty not getting priority?
The government’s counsel submitted that pensions remain suspended due to the financial crisis and the non receipt of central share. But, Court did not appear to be accepting that argument. Court asked if Government had cancelled any of its programmes due to financial crisis. If the government can spend money for Nava Kerala Sadas, they should not claim that lack of funds is the reason for the non-payment of pensions. Court was emphasising the significance of the payment of the pensions. About 45 lakh elderly people are not getting the widow pension.
Court added that Mariyakkutty is a VIP who moved the court as she had no income to live. Justice Devan Ramchandran said Court considers the issue in this manner. Court has to stand with the citizen. Rs 1,600 could be a silly amount for the government, but it is huge for Mariyakkutty. Government was asked by the court to advise on its decision on December 22, regarding the payment of widow pension to Mariyakkutty.
Eighty-five-year-old Mariyakkutty and Annamma were found begging with earthen pots in Adimaly town, Idukki district, on November 8, 2023. Annamma was holding a hand-written placard stating “Disburse the window pension dues. Show justice to the poor. Don’t steal from the pots of the poor. No money for paying electricity bills”.
Mariayakkuty from Ponooduthupara near Koobanpara and Annamma from Polinjapalam Thanikkuzhi, 200 acres in Admimali, Indukki, are two of the lakhs of underprivileged ones in the state. The government’s social security and widow pensions are the only means of their bread and butter. Since the state government’s welfare pensions are not disbursed for the last several months together, both elderly women opted to beg as their protest. They used to make bamboo products for their livelihood. Pensions are supposed to be disbursed through local self-government bodies once the government releases the funds.
Both elderly women had said that they were unable to buy food and medicines and pay their electricity bills. Their husbands are no more. The earthen pots were given to them, free of cost, by someone. They were begging from the shopkeepers, auto drivers and government employees The first day, they got Rs 1200. They said, it was enough for them to buy medicines and to pay electricity bills.
In the meantime, pro-government people propagated that Mairyakutty was not poor, she owned lands and her daughter was working abroad. It was carried by Deshabhimani, the Malayalam mouthpiece of CPM in Kerala. But, within no time, this propaganda was proved to be false. Then Deshabhimani was left with no other option than withdrawing the news and carrying regret because Mariyakkutty stated that she was going for legal action against the CPM media.
The HC order is another blow to the government. Government keeps on complaining about the financial crisis when the aforementioned essential payments are asked for. But, as the HC rightly said, government does not shy off from luxuries. It is extravagance that can be seen in all governmental activities. The luxury bus being used to carry the entire Cabinet or the Nava Kerala Sadas reportedly costs Rs 1.05 cr. How much money in crores have been spent so far for the Sadas is still unknown. How much money LDF (CPM-led Left Democratic Front) government got as sponsorship, how much was spent and how were they spent, these questions still remain to be answered. And, none knows many grievances, out of lakhs, have been solved. This journal has, in the past, reported several examples of the government’s luxuries.
Now, once again the anti-people, pro-luxury and nepotistic policies of the Kerala government is exposed in the High Court.