In a first in the state, the Kerala Assembly Speaker on Wednesday forwarded the breach of privilege notice moved by the opposition Congress against Finance minister TM Thomas Isaac to the ethics committee of the House. Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan said he forwarded the notice, moved by Congress Member of Legislative Assembly VD Satheeshan, along with the reply filed by the minister, for the consideration of the Privileges and Ethics Committee of the state Assembly.
Satheeshan moved the notice, under Section 159 of the Kerala Legislative Assembly, Rules of Procedure and conduct of Business, against the minister for making public the details of the draft CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) report before it was tabled in the Assembly.
"Privilege and ethics committee of the Assembly will take further decision. We have handed over the breach of privilege notice and the Minister's reply to the notice to the committee," Sreeramakrishnan told the media.
The Speaker said that there are certain important issues mentioned in the complaint of the opposition MLA and other serious matters pointed out by the minister in his reply and both need to be addressed by the committee.
"Since the formation of the state, this is probably the first time such an issue has come up. The minister has pointed out that this was not just a matter of breach of privilege of the Assembly but there are certain unprecedented situations with regard to the CAG report. So let the committee take a decision in a democratic manner after hearing both the sides," the Speaker said.
Minister Thomas Isaac had appeared before the Speaker on Monday to explain his stand.
The opposition alleged that Thomas Isaac had infringed on the rights of the House by disclosing details of the CAG's audit 2018-19 report of Kerala Infrastructure Investment Board (KIIFB) to the media before it was tabled in the Assembly.
Following the Speaker's decision, the Opposition leader, Ramesh Chennithala, demanded Thomas Isaac's resignation. He does not have the right to continue in the post, Chennithala told reporters. Isaac also violated Official Secrets Act, the senior Congress leader said.
The Speaker also said that the privilege complaint against the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for its reported probe against the state-run Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB), is also under serious consideration.
"The notice moved by (MLA) M Swaraj is also a serious one and under consideration. He has pointed out that the ED has reportedly initiated a probe against the state-run KIIFB over borrowing from international markets on the basis of a CAG report, which is yet to be tabled in the Assembly," the Speaker said.
The Speaker sought a report from the Finance Ministry in the matter.
Tripunithura MLA M Swaraj had alleged that launching a probe on the basis of a report by the CAG before it was tabled in the House is a violation of the privilege of the legislators.
Thomas Isaac earlier alleged that the ED officials were leaking select information and directing media houses on how to give headlines concerning the KIIFB and asserted that the central agency would not be allowed to undermine the authority of the state government.