Thiruvananthapuram: A judicial commission report on allegations of corruption related to a solar scam has become the most sought-after document in Kerala, with former chief minister Oommen Chandy and several others asking for copies of the report that has been selectively disclosed by the government.
The chief secretary’s office has received at least 15 applications under the Right to Information Act. The applicants include RTI activists, mediapersons and political leaders. More people may seek copies of the report since the chief minister himself let out hints of the findings in a press conference.
Justice G. Sivarajan submitted the much anticipated report to the government on September 26, after three years of exhaustive evidence collection. The government chose not to make the document public but decided to initiate criminal investigation against Chandy and other opposition leaders on the basis of the report.
The commission has recommended investigation against the leaders under the Prevention of Corruption Act as it said seeking sexual favors amounted to bribery. Chandy, Aryadan Muhammed, Adoor Prakash, K.C. Venugopal MP, Jose K. Mani MP, Hibi Eden MLA, A.P. Anilkumar and several others also face charges of sexual abuse under the Indian Penal Code.
The opposition leaders desperately want a copy of the report to defend themselves from the political and legal onslaught stemming from it. The government is required to respond to an RTI petition within 30 days. If the information sought is related to the applicant’s life or liberty, the response time is 48 hours.
The commission report is in the office of the chief minister’s principal secretary. The officers are barred from revealing the report before it is tabled in the Kerala Legislative Assembly. The house, which was adjourned on August 24, is expected to be convened in November but it was not clear if the report would be tabled in that session.
The opposition alleges that the government has committed a breach of privileges by revealing parts of the report before tabling it in the assembly. Law experts sees nothing wrong in filing an FIR based on the report.
“The government is duty-bound to table the report and details of follow-up actions before the assembly within six months, according to section 3(4) of the Commission of Inquiry Act. There is nothing wrong in taking action based on the report before tabling it,” said advocate Kaleeswaram Raj.
Activists had to fall back on the RTI Act to get hold of inquiry commission reports in the past. The inquiry commission report into the Marad massacre was publicized after an RTI request by advocate D B. Binu. The commission was appointed by the United Democratic Front government but the regime had changed by the time the report was submitted.
The advocate’s request was allowed by the information commissioner but the government chose to ignore it until the Kerala High Court ordered it to publicize it. The court even fined the additional home secretary Rs 14,5000 for withholding information.
The court said the commission was not formed in the assembly and the government had failed to table it in the assembly within six months.