KOCHI: Riding on an anti-corruption wave, the LDF came to power in Kerala flagging efficient implementation of the Right to Information Act (RTI) as a major poll plank.Now, one-and-half years into its tenure, the Pinarayi Government has made a volte-face, mocking the very spirit and soul of RTI Act. The devil, as they say, is in the detail.First, the government denied furnishing the Cabinet decisions as per the RTI Act and the latest in the series is the statement of Law Minister A K Balan that the Solar scam inquiry report cannot be provided on the application moved by former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.
“Since LDF assumed power, functioning of the State Information Commission (SIC) has become virtually defunct. The five-member commission has been reduced to a single-member commission without transacting any worthy business. The state government challenged the High Court judgment upholding the appointment of four Information Commissioners (IC), which ultimately ended in the government’s favour. But no new ICs have been appointed till date,” said former Director General of Prosecution T Asaf Ali.
The 35-point LDF election manifesto ends with the promise the RTI Act will be efficiently implemented as part of putting an end to corruption and ensuring good governance. However, the government kept mum over this after it evaluated its performance progress report during its first anniversary.
“The state government had challenged the order of the State Information Commission before the High Court for providing Cabinet papers regarding the decisions taken in the last Cabinet meeting of the outgoing UDF Government. LDF made use of the so-called ‘illegal decisions’ of its preceding government as the main election issue. Then why has the LDF withheld the Cabinet papers of the decisions taken by the last UDF government cabinet meeting? This is shrouded in mystery even now,” Asaf Ali alleged.
RTI activists alleged the lackadaisical approach of the government indicated its lack of interest towards RTI. Official records reveal a total of 13,615 petitions are pending before the one-man State Information Commission.
D B Binu, an RTI activist, said the government rejected his application seeking the status of the promises – made by the LDF in its poll manifesto – which are being materialised after they assumed power
“The application was rejected citing poll manifesto was not a public document and a public authority cannot access it. However, the progress report of the promises have been uploaded on the official websites of the state government and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The LDF manifesto is also available on the front’s website. But the government says it cannot be provided,” Binu said.
CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran has refuted allegations the LDF is against the RTI Act. “We are not against the RTI Act. If you are citing the case of Oommen Chandy seeking the Solar scam inquiry report, the government has taken the stand it cannot provide the report submitted by the judicial commission set up under Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952. Though the RTI Act overrides many other acts it does not overrides the Commissions of Inquiry Act. Hence, the report will be placed before the Assembly within six months along with the action-taken report,” Kanam said.