Monday, November 12, 2012

The Hindu : States / Kerala : Kerala information commissioner suspended

Governor H. R. Bhardwaj on Monday suspended Kerala State Information Commissioner K. Natarajan.

The suspension is pending formal enquiry by a Judge of the Supreme Court into the allegation that Mr Natarajan had tried to interfere with the vigilance investigation into gifting of government land by Opposition Leader V. S. Achuthanandan to his relative when Mr. Achuthandnan was Chief Minister.

An enquiry ordered by the State government had found that Mr. Natarajan had tried to influence Deputy Superintendent of Police V. G. Kunhan who was investigating the case against Mr. Achuthanandan. Additional Director General of Police (Vigilance) R. Sreelekha, who conducted the enquiry, reported that the State Information Commissioner had misused his office and recommended his suspension. He had repeatedly telephoned Mr. Kunhan and his request to Mr. Kunhan to save Mr. Achuthanandan was recorded by the latter.

(Mr. Achuthanandan is accused of having allotted 2.33 acres in Kasaragod district to his relative and ex-service man T. K. Soman in an irregular manner. The Commissioner allegedly sought manipulation of findings of the enquiry to favour Mr. Achuthanandan.)
The Governor will now refer the matter to the Supreme Court seeking a statutory enquiry by a Supreme Court judge against the suspended Commissioner. If misconduct is proved in the enquiry, the Governor can remove Mr. Natarajan from his office.

Mr. Natarajan was a Deputy Inspector General of Police before the Achuthanandan government appointed him as State Information Commissioner. His appointment had attracted criticism on the grounds that he was not qualified for appointment as Information Commissioner. (The Right to Information Act specifies that Information Commissioners shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance.)

Meanwhile, the Human Right Defence Forum and Kerala RTI Federation have urged the President Pranab Mukherjee that Mr. Natarajan be stripped of the President’s Police Medal which was awarded to him when he was serving as a police officer. Forum President P. K. Ibrahim and Federation General Secretary D.B. Binu said that Mr. Natarajan had “let down the honour of the medal” by meddling with the Rule of Law.

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