Kerala Governor suspends the State Information Commissioner
The Governor of Kerala Mr. H.R. Bhardwaj has suspended Mr. K. Natarajan, the Information Commissioner at the Kerala State Information Commission (SIC). The suspension followed an enquiry by the Additional Director General of Police (Vigilance) R. Sreelekha, who reported that the Mr. Natarajan had tried to influence the investigation being conducted by the Deputy Superintendent of Police Mr. V.G. Kunhan. The case against the current leader of the opposition V.S. Achuthanandan is being investigated by Mr. Kunhan for alleged gifting of 2.33 acres government land to his relative and ex-serviceman T.K. Soman as Chief Minister.
The inquiry found that Mr. Natarajan had repeatedly telephoned Mr. Kunhan requesting him to conduct enquiry in a certain manner to favour Mr. Achuthanandan. These telephone calls were recorded by the Mr. Kunhan. The enquiry recommended his suspension for the misuse of his office. Before being appointed as the Information Commissioner in the Kerala SIC during the reign of Mr. Achuthanandan as CM, Mr. Natarajan was working as the Deputy Inspector General of Police.
As per section 17 of the Right to Information Act, the Information Commissioner can be removed from his office only by an order of the Governor on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity after the Supreme Court inquiry finds that the Information Commissioner ought to be removed on such ground. The relevant sections of the RTI Act read as under:
Section 17. (1) Subject to the provisions of sub-section (3), the State Chief Information Commissioner or a State Information Commissioner shall be removed from his office only by order of the Governor on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity after the Supreme Court, on a reference made to it by the Governor, has on inquiry, reported that the State Chief Information Commissioner or a State Information Commissioner, as the case may be, ought on such ground be removed.
(2) The Governor may suspend from office, and if deem necessary prohibit also from attending the office during inquiry, the State Chief Information Commissioner or a State Information Commissioner in respect of whom a reference has been made to the Supreme Court under sub-section (1) until the Governor has passed orders on receipt of the report of the Supreme Court on such reference.
(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), the Governor may by order remove from office the State Chief Information Commissioner or a State Information Commissioner if a State Chief Information Commissioner or a State Information Commissioner, as the case may be,—
(a) is adjudged an insolvent; or
(b) has been convicted of an offence which, in the opinion of the Governor, involves moral turpitude; or
(c) engages during his term of office in any paid employment outside the duties of his office; or
(d) is, in the opinion of the Governor, unfit to continue in office by reason of infirmity of mind or body; or
(e) has acquired such financial or other interest as is likely to affect prejudicially his functions as the State Chief Information Commissioner or a State Information Commissioner.