“We never expected this from a Left government,” says D.B. Binu, a leading right-to-information (RTI) activist, human rights lawyer and general secretary of Kerala RTI Federation.
He was commenting on the Pinarayi Vijayan Government’s refusal to reveal the controversial Cabinet decisions taken by the previous Oommen Chandy Government.
“It was the furore over these decisions that had mainly helped the Left Democratic Front to win the May 16 Assembly election and come to power,” he told BusinessLine on Friday. “The LDF used these decisions, some of which favoured crony businessmen and companies, to buttress its allegations of corruption against the Chandy Government during the campaign.”
On an RTI appeal by Binu, the chief State information commissioner had last fortnight ordered the government to give out the information sought by him on the controversial decisions made by the Chandy Cabinet. Binu had to go in appeal to the CIC after the government had earlier refused to divulge the information he had sought.
The CIC asked the government to reply to Binu’s RTI questions within ten days and also asked to consider uploading the decisions taken at future Cabinet meetings on the government websites. But, the government has refused and told the State Information Commission that it is going to challenge the CIC directive in the High Court.
“The LDF government, like most other state governments in the country, is employing this time-tested strategy to defeat the spirit of the Right to Information Act,” Binu said. “If it gets a stay from the High Court, the issue will remain in the courts for several years and the government can continue to keep its key decisions from the public eye.” The LDF government was denying the information on the previous government’s decisions fearing that it would have to reveal its own future decisions too. Binu noted that one of the first decisions of the Pinarayi Government was to scrap the decades-old practice of Chief Ministers briefing the media on the decisions taken by the Cabinet each time it met.
He pointed out that the RTI Act has not exempted Cabinet decisions. Shailesh Gandhi, a former member of the Central Information Commission had reiterated this in one of his decisions. Binu said
“It is strange that the same LDF which had, while in Opposition, intensely criticised the former UDF Government’s refusal to reveal the content of the Cabinet decisions, is resorting to the same trick,” Binu said. “Right or Left, all governments want to hide from the people important decisions that affect the people. It’s really sad that the LDF is colluding with others to blunt such an important people’s weapon as the RTI.”