Governor H.R. Bhardwaj has suspended Kerala State Information Commissioner K. Natarajan from the post.
The suspension is pending a formal inquiry by a judge of the Supreme Court into the allegation that he had tried to interfere with the Vigilance investigation into gifting of government land by Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan to his relative when he was Chief Minister.
An inquiry ordered by the State government found that Mr. Natarajan had tried to influence Deputy Superintendent of Police V.G. Kunhan who was investigating the charge against Mr. Achuthanandan. Additional Director General of Police (Vigilance) R. Sreelekha, who conducted the inquiry, 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-serviceman T.K. Soman in an irregular manner. The commissioner allegedly sought manipulation of findings of the inquiry to favour Mr. Achuthanandan.)
The Governor would now refer the matter to the Supreme Court seeking a statutory inquiry by a Supreme Court judge against the suspended commissioner. If misconduct is proved in the inquiry, 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 then itself on the ground that he was not qualified enough 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 President Pranab Mukherjee that Mr. Natarajan be stripped of the President’s Police Medal 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.