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Kerala CIC appears before assembly privileges panel

30,Mar,2010(IANS):Thiruvananthapuram: Keralas Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Palatt Mohandas appeared before the state assemblys privileges and ethics committee Tuesday after the high court asked him to do so.

Both Mohandas and his deputy P.N. Vijaykumar arrived at the assembly complex where the sitting of the privileges and ethics committee takes place.

Mohandas was asked to appear before the committee over his order slapping a penalty on the houses information officer. He approached the Kerala High Court challenging the committees power to summon him. Hearing his plea, a division bench of Chief Justice J. Chalameshwar Monday asked him to appear before the panel as his petition can be taken up by the court only after he does so.

A member of the house committee told IANS, on the condition of anonymity, that both Mohandas and Vijaykumar appeared before the committee.

"We spent almost two hours with them and heard what they had to say. Now the committee will closely examine the statements and then decide what needs to be done. The next meeting of our committee is not yet fixed," the legislator said.

Trouble has been brewing between the legislature and the CIC since a right to information (RTI) applicant, D.B. Vinu, approached the assemblys information officer for a copy of the speech and the video of former minister T.M. Jacobs speech supporting the no-confidence motion of the then Left opposition against the Congress-led government of Oommen Chandy in July 2005.

Vinu was given the written copy of the speech but told that the video cannot be given because it is not an official document.

Following this, he approached the state information commission in February. The commission directed the assembly information officer to provide the video tape too to Vinu. But the officer refused to do so.

CIC Mohandas, a former chief secretary of the state, then ordered the assemblys information officer to pay a fine at the rate of Rs.250 per day till he handed over the video copy to Vinu.

Irked by the CIC order, the committee last month decided to ask him and his deputy to appear before it for breach of privilege of the house. It concluded that there was ample evidence to ask them to appear before it.

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