Court rules RTI Act applicable to MPs on asset declaration | Daily News

Court rules RTI Act applicable to MPs on asset declaration

Declaring its judgement over a petition filed by the Sri Lanka Parliament, the Court of Appeal on Tuesday (28) decided that the provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act shall prevail over the provisions of the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Act of Sri Lanka.

This petition had been filed challenging an order issued by the RTI Commission to the Sri Lanka Parliament to issue information pertaining to a RTI application submitted by young journalist Chamara Sampath in 2018.

By his letter dated June 21, 2018, Chamara Sampath had requested the Information Officer of the Parliament to provide the list of Parliamentarians who had handed over their respective declarations of assets and liabilities in 2018 and also the list of Parliamentarians who had handed over their declarations from 2010 up to that date.

The Information Officer in response to this request on August 21, 2018 had refused the request on the basis that he has to make an application in terms of the Declaration of the Assets and Liabilities Act of Act No.1 of 1975 to the Speaker of Parliament, which is a separate Act that governs the declarations of the Members of Parliament. The Designated Officer too has held the same view in rejecting the appeal preferred by the respondent to him in that regard, in terms of Section 31 of the RTI Act.

Being aggrieved by the decision of the Designated Officer, journalist Chamara Sampath had then appealed to the RTI Commission on September 11, 2018, seeking its involvement in this case.

After the case being heard before the commission for over two years, the commission had pronounced its decision on February 2, 2021, ordering the Designated Officer of the Parliament to issue the requested information, after which the Parliament had filed this petition against the order of the commission.

This case CA/RTI/0004/2021 of the Court of Appeal was heard before the Judges Sampath B. Abayakoon, and P. Kumararatnam.

The Appeal Court said that it is of the view that it is not open to any Information Officer or a Designated Officer of a public authority to deny information to frustrate the very intention of the legislature when the RTI Act was enacted in order to expand the scope of combating corruption, promoting accountability and good governance.

“The appeal therefore is dismissed and the Order of the Right to Information Commission of Sri Lanka is affirmed,” the court said.

Mahinda Gammanpila chaired the RTI Commission and Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena, S.G. Punchihewa, Dr. Selvy Thiruchandran, retired Justice Rohini Walgama were the members of the Right to Information Commission when the appeal was submitted by the journalist in 2018.

Attorneys-at-law Thishya Weragoda with S. Wimalaratne instructed by Niluka Dissanayake appeared for Chamara Sampath, while aattorneys-at-law Himali Kularatne with Jayani Ellepola appeared for the RTI Commission. Senior Deputy Solicitor General Mahen Gopellawa with Deputy Solicitor General Avanthi Perera appeared for the Attorney General in this case.

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