KOCHI: The LDF Government may have rebuffed former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s plea seeking a copy of the Solar Commission report, but activists and legal experts say the authorities will have no option but to provide it under the Right to Information Act (RTI). According to activists, as per section 7 of the RTI Act, 2005, the information concerning the life or liberty of a person should be provided within 48 hours of the receipt of request. The Solar report comes within this section, they said.
Former Director General of Prosecution T Asaf Ali said since the Chief Minister (Pinarayi Vijayan) made public the important recommendations of the report, there can be no protection to its contents. Further, Section 22 of the RTI Act provides provisions of the Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in the Official Secrets Act 1923, and any other law for the time being in force or in any other law other than the RTI Act.
If the government cannot withhold a report, there is no justification for the denial of a copy of the same when an application under RTI Act is submitted to the public authority, said Asaf Ali.
RTI activist M T Thomas, a member of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, said the Chief Minister and Law Minister A K Balan had no right to declare the information sought under RTI Act would not be provided.
“Minister Balan’s statement itself is a violation of the RTI Act. It’s the State Information Commissioner (SIC) who has the right to decide whether the sought information should be given or not. By making a statement, they attempted to influence SIC and, thereby, misuse their official powers,” he said.
Thomas said the implementation of the RTI Act in 2005 had overruled all other existing Acts. Hence, the information could not be held back citing it has not been placed in the Assembly.
RTI activist D B Binu said the Marad Inquiry Commission report came to light through the RTI Act. “Though the SIC ordered to provide the report, the state government denied it and moved the High Court. However, the report was furnished as per the SIC’s order,” said Binu.
The SIC ordered to provide the report as per the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005, though there was precedence if an inquiry commission constituted under the Commission of Inquiries Act 1952 submitted a report, it should be placed before the Legislative Assembly within six months.“The SIC had taken a stand the judicial commission report was a confidential document in the Marad Commission report,” said senior journalist Roy Mathew.
‘A facet of fundamental right’
Kochi: Former Director General of Prosecution T Asaf Ali said there could have no denial of access to any information relating to the report. “It’s trite that the Commission of Inquiry was appointed to inquire into a matter of public importance and hence there can have no denial of access to any information relating to the report made by the Commission appointed under the Act,” said Asaf.