Right to Information Comes into Force in Sri Lanka

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Right to Information (RTI) Act has come into force in Srilanka from 3rd february 2017.

Main Provisions:

1) Only citizens of Sri Lanka can seek and obtain information under the law. Bodies, both incorporated and unincorporated, where at least 3/4th of the members are Sri Lankan citizens, can also seek and receive information. Reasons need not be given for seeking information;
2) All organs of the State- Parliament, Executive and Judiciary are covered by the law. The police and defence forces, public sector corporations, local authorities, private entities carrying out a public function or providing a public service under an agreement or license from Government or local authorities are also covered;
3) There are specific provisions for proactive information disclosure including details of developmental projects of monetary values specified in the law;
4) The time limit for making a decision on a request is 28 days which may be extendable under certain circumstances;
5) Several clauses containing exemptions to disclosure contain harm tests. Even exempt information will have to be disclosed if public interest in so doing outweighs the harm to the protected interests;
6) Decisions of refusal to provide access to information are subject to a two-tier appeals system. The first tier of appeal is internal to the public authority;
7) A 5-member RTI Commission appointed by the President of Sri Lanka on the recommendations of the Constitutional Council will be the second tier of appeals. Decisions of the Commission may be challenged before the Court of Appeal. In any appeal proceeding, the burden of proving that one acted in accordance with the provisions of the law is on the public authority.
8) The RTI Commission is empowered to initiate prosecution of errant officials for committing offences under the law such as destroying information that was the subject matter of a request, not cooperating with the Commission in its proceedings or not complying with its decisions. For minor contraventions of the law such as refusing to receive information requests, rejecting a request without giving reasons, stipulating excessive fees the errant officer will attract disciplinary action;
9) The public authorities have a duty to report to the RTI Commission about the number of requests received and disposed including the manner of their disposal every year; and
10) There will be no civil or criminal liability on any officer for acting in good faith while performing any function or duty under the RTI law.
The RTI law is unique in several ways. It overrides all other written law, where there may be contradiction, and all information can be revealed if the greater public interest is served by disclosure of information. This applies even where the information sought could potentially fall within exceptions in the law.
Right to Information Commission:
The Right to Information Commission is vested with a wide array of powers and is primarily responsible for ensuring that the Right to information can be enjoyed by any citizen without hindrance.
The commission is the body consisting of 5 persons that are recognized for their knowledge, experience and expertise in the fields of governance, public administration, social services, journalism, science and technology or management.
The current members of the RTI Commission are Mahinda Gammanpila, Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena, S. G Punchihewa, Judge A. W. A. Salam and Dr. Selvy Thiruchandran .
As per the relevant gazette notification, RTI Act will be enforced in relation to following public authorities.

(a) a Ministry of the Government;
(b) any body or office created or established by or under the Constitution, any written law, other than the
Companies Act, No. 7 of 2007, except to the extent specified in paragraph (e), or a statute of a
Provincial Council;
(c) a Government Department;
(d) a public corporation;
(e) a company incorporated under the Companies Act, No. 7 of 2007, in which the State, or a public
corporation or the State and a public corporation together hold twenty five per centum or more of the
shares or otherwise has a controlling interest;
(f) a local authority;
(g) a private entity or organisation which is carrying out a statutory or public function or service, under a
contract, a partnership, an agreement or a license from the government or its agencies or from a local
body, but only to the extent of activities covered by that statutory or public function or service;
(h) any department or other authority or institution established or created by a Provincial Council;
(i) non-governmental organisations that are substantially funded by the government or any department
or other authority established or created by a Provincial Council or by a foreign government or
international organisation, rendering a service to the public in so far as the information sought relates
to the service that is rendered to the public;
(j) higher educational institutions including private universities and professional institutions which
are established, recognised or licensed under any written law or funded, wholly or partly, by the
State or a public corporation or any statutory body established or created by a statute of a
Provincial Council;
(k) private educational institutions including institutions offering vocational or technical education
which are established, recognised or licensed under any written law or funded, wholly or partly,
by the State or a public corporation or any statutory body established or created by a statute of a
Provincial Council;
(l) all courts, tribunals and institutions created and established for the administration of justice;

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