In a landmark order, the Kerala State Information Commission lifted the ‘iron curtain’ over the State Cabinet’s decisions by making them available to the public through the Right to Information Act.
Chief Information Commissioner Vinson M Paul has asked the government to provide, in ten days, the details of the agendas and minutes regarding the controversial decisions made by the previous Oommen Chandy Cabinet during its last lap in power.
Some of these decisions, which were made in haste and allegedly favoured business houses, had contributed to the defeat of the Congress-led UDF in the recent Assembly elections.
On an appeal by RTI activist DB Binu, the CIC asked the government to provide the details of the decisions taken by the Cabinet from January 1 to March 12 this year. His applications, under the RTI, had earlier been repeatedly rejected by the officials concerned. “It is against the spirit of the RTI Act to reject the information sought by the public citing practical difficulties and deficiencies in the existing procedures,” the CIC noted.‘Upload decisions’
The CIC wanted the government to provide to the public information on Cabinet decisions by taking steps to cut the procedural delays. He pointed out that government departments were required to issue orders on decisions made at the Cabinet meetings within 48 hours. He also wanted the government to ‘seriously consider’ uploading future decisions on government websites.
“This is an important directive that lifts the iron curtain over Cabinet decisions,” Binu told BusinessLine . “The rulers will no longer be able to hide their wrong and illegal decisions from the public.”
Binu pointed out that Chandy had omitted the controversial decisions taken by his Cabinet in the last months of the regime from his weekly post-Cabinet media briefings. These were later raised by the Congress State President VM Sudheeran and the media forcing the government to retreat on some of them.No media briefings now
“The commission order is particularly crucial as the current Pinarayi government’s has wound up the post-Cabinet media briefing, denying the public the only source of information about the Cabinet’s decisions,” Binu said.
Interestingly, Paul, a retired Additional Director General of Police, whose last posting was as director of the Vigilance and Anti Corruption Bureau, was made CIC by the Chandy government. Then in Opposition, the CPI(M) had viewed him as pro-government and his appointment as CIC was seen as a gift for his loyalty.