Country

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

Name of law : Right to Information Act, No. 12 of 2016,
First adopted : 2016
Last modified : 04 August 2016
RTI Rating last updated : 28 September 2016

Section Max ScoreScore
Right of Access 6 5
Scope 30 28
Requesting procedures 30 26
Exceptions 30 23
Appeals 30 29
Sanctions 8 4
Promotional measures 16 16
TOTAL 150 131

Right of Access

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1 The legal framework (including jurisprudence) recognises a fundamental right of access to information.Score 0 for no constitutional right to information, 1 point for a limited constitutional right, 2 points for full constitutional recognition of a public right of access to information.2 YES 14A . (1) Every citizen shall have the right of access to any information as provided for by law, being information that is required for the exercise or protection of a citizen’s right held by:- (a ) the State, a Ministry or any Government Department or any statutory body established or created by or under any law; (b ) any Ministry of a Minster of the Board of Ministers of a Province or any Department or any statutory body established or created by a statute of a Provincial Council; (c ) any local authority; and (d ) any other person, who is in possession of such information relating to any institution referred to in sub-paragraphs (a ) (b ) or (c ) of this paragraph. (2) No restrictions shall be placed on the right declared and recognized by this Article, other than such restrictions prescribed by law as are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals and of the reputation or the rights of others, privacy, prevention of contempt of court, protection of parliamentary privilege, for preventing the disclosure of information communicated in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary. (3) In this Article, “citizen” includes a body whether incorporated or unincorporated, if not less than three-fourths of the members of such body are citizens.
2 The legal framework creates a specific presumption in favour of access to all information held by public authorities, subject only to limited exceptions.No=0, Partially=1, Yes=22 YES Section 3. (1) Subject to the provisions of section 5 of this Act, every citizen shall have a right of access to information which is in the possession, custody or control of a public authority.
3 3.1 The legal framework contains a specific statement of principles calling for a broad interpretation of the RTI law
3.2 The legal framework emphasises the benefits of the right to information?
3.1(Y/N - max 1 point)
3.2 (Y/N - max 1 point)
2 Partially Preamble: WHEREAS the Constitution guarantees the right of access to information in Article 14A thereof and there exists a need to foster a culture of transparency and accountability in public authorities by giving effect to the right of access to information and thereby promote a society in which the people of Sri Lanka would be able to more fully participate in public life through combating corruption and promoting accountability and good governance. Preamble includes reference to wider benefits but there is no rule on interpretation.




Scope

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4 Everyone (including non-citizens and legal entities) has the right to file requests for information.Score 0 point if only residents/citizens; 1 point for all natural persons; 1 point for legal persons. 2 Partially Section 3. (1) Subject to the provisions of section 5 of this Act, every citizen shall have a right of access to information which is in the possession, custody or control of a public authority. Section 43. In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires– “citizen” includes a body whether incorporated or unincorporated, if not less than three-fourths of the members of such body are citizens; Only citizens and legal entities.
5 The right of access applies to all material held by or on behalf of public authorities which is recorded in any format, regardless of who produced it.Score 1-3 points if limited definition of information information such as not "internal documents" or databases excluded, 4 points for all information with no exceptions.4 YES Section 43. In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires– “information” includes any material which is recorded in, in any form including records, documents, memos, emails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, log books, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, correspondence, memorandum, draft legislation, book, plan, map, drawing, diagram, pictorial or graphic work, photograph, film, microfilm, sound recording, video tape, machine readable record, computer records and other documentary material, regardless of its physical form or character and any copy thereof;
6 Requesters have a right to access both information and records/documents (i.e. a right both to ask for information and to apply for specific documents).Score 1 point for only documents, 1 point for information2 YES Section 43. In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires– “information” includes any material which is recorded in, in any form including records, documents, memos, emails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, log books, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, correspondence, memorandum, draft legislation, book, plan, map, drawing, diagram, pictorial or graphic work, photograph, film, microfilm, sound recording, video tape, machine readable record, computer records and other documentary material, regardless of its physical form or character and any copy thereof; Regulation No. 04(07): A Public Authority shall not be required to collect information to respond to a request but it shall not refuse a request on the ground that it does not hold the information where, with a reasonable effort the information may be produced from records held by the Public Authority, using the resources which is normally available to the Public Authority, or again with a reasonable effort, the information may be compiled from different records held by the Public Authority. The Act only refers to information but the Regs make it clear that information must also be compiled from documents.
7 The right of access applies to the executive branch with no bodies or classes of information excluded.This includes executive (cabinet) and adminsitration including all ministries, departments, local government, public schools, public health care bodies, the police, the armed forces, security services, and bodies owned or controlled by the above.Score 4 points for central government agencies covered: 1 for the head of state, 1 for ministries, 1 for other non-statutory agencies created by the ministries, 1 for state and local government if the government is unitary. If it´s a federalist system, 2 points for the non-statutory agencies. This can be determined by examining the length and thoroughness of the list, if such a schedule exists. Score 1 point for the archives. Add three points and deduct 1 for each exempted central agency (such as the armed forces, police, etc).8 Partially Section 43. In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires– “public authority” means – (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; ... (f) a local authority; ... (h) any department or other authority or institution established or created by a Provincial Council; ... (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 Not entirely clear that all bodies created by public bodies are covered
8 The right of access applies to the legislature, including both administrative and other information, with no bodies excluded. Score 1 point if the law only applies to administrative documents, 2-3 points if some bodies excluded, 4 points if all legislative branch at all levels of government4 YES Section 43. In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires– “public authority” means – (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;
9 The right of access applies to the judicial branch, including both administrative and other information, with no bodies excluded. Score 1 point if the law only applies to administrative documents, 2-3 points if some bodies excluded, 4 points if all judicial branch at all levels of government4 YES Section 43. In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires– “public authority” means – (l) all courts, tribunals and institutions created and established for the administration of justice;
10 The right of access applies to State-owned enterprises (commercial entities that are owned or controlled by the State). Score 1 point if some, 2 points if all2 YES Section 43. In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires– “public authority” means – (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;
11 The right of access applies to other public authorities, including constitutional, statutory and oversight bodies (such as an election commission or information commission/er). Score 1 point if some bodies, 2 points if all2 YES Section 43. In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires– “public authority” means – (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; ... (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;
12 The right of access applies to a) private bodies that perform a public function and b) private bodies that receive significant public funding. 1 point for public functions, 1 point for public funding 2 YES Section 43. In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires– “public authority” means – (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; ... (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;

Requesting Procedures

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13 Requesters are not required to provide reasons for their requests.Y/N answer 0 or 2 points2 YES Section 24(5) A citizen making a request for information shall:– (d) not be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him or her.
14 Requesters are only required to provide the details necessary for identifying and delivering the information (i.e. some form of address for delivery).Score Max 2 points and deduct if requesters are required to give any of the following: ID number, telephone number, residential address, etc.2 YES Seciton 24(5) A citizen making a request for information shall:– (a) provide such details concerning the information requested as is reasonably necessary to enable the information officer to identify the information; (b) identify the nature of the form and language in which the citizen prefers access; (c) where the citizen making the request believes that the information is necessary to safeguard the life or liberty of a person, include a statement to that effect, including the basis for that belief; and (d) not be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him or her.
15 There are clear and relatively simple procedures for making requests. Requests may be submitted by any means of communication, with no requirement to use official forms or to state that the information is being requested under the access to information law.Max 2 points. Considerations include that there is no requirement to state that the request is under the RTI law, nor to use an official form, nor to identify the document being sought. 2 YES Section 24. (1) Any citizen who is desirous of obtaining any information under this Act shall make a request in writing to the appropriate information officer, specifying the particulars of the information requested for: Provided that where any citizen making a request under this subsection is unable due to any reason to make such request in writing, such citizen shall be entitled to make the request orally and it shall be the duty of the appropriate information officer to reduce such request to writing on behalf of the citizen. Section 24(6) For the purpose of this section – “writing” includes writing done through electronic means;
16 Public officials are required provide assistance to help requesters formulate their requests, or to contact and assist requesters where requests that have been made are vague, unduly broad or otherwise need clarification. Score 1 point for help in formulation and 1 point for clarification procedures2 YES Section 23(2) Every information officer shall deal with requests for information made to the public authority of which he or she has been appointed its information officer, and render all necessary assistance to any citizen making such request to obtain the information. Article 24(1) ... Provided that where any citizen making a request under this subsection is unable due to any reason to make such request in writing, such citizen shall be entitled to make the request orally and it shall be the duty of the appropriate information officer to reduce such request to writing on behalf of the citizen. Section 24(2) Where a citizen – (a) wishes to make a request to a public authority; or (b) has made a request to a public authority which does not comply with the requirements of this Act, the information officer concerned shall take all necessary steps to assist the citizen, free of charge, to make the request in a manner that complies with this Act.
17     Public officials are required to provide assistance to requesters who require it because of special needs, for example because they are illiterate or disabled.Score Yes=2 point, No=02 YES Section 23(2) Every information officer shall deal with requests for information made to the public authority of which he or she has been appointed its information officer, and render all necessary assistance to any citizen making such request to obtain the information. Article 24(1) ... Provided that where any citizen making a request under this subsection is unable due to any reason to make such request in writing, such citizen shall be entitled to make the request orally and it shall be the duty of the appropriate information officer to reduce such request to writing on behalf of the citizen. Covers inability to make the request for any reason.
18 Requesters are provided with a receipt or acknowledgement upon lodging a request within a reasonable timeframe, which should not exceed 5 working daysScore 1 point for receipt, 1 point for max 5 working days2 YES Section 24(3) On receipt of a request, an information officer shall immediately provide a written acknowledgement of the request to the citizen.
19 Clear and appropriate procedures are in place for situations where the authority to which a request is directed does not have the requested information. This includes an obligation to inform the requester that the information is not held and to refer the requester to another institution or to transfer the request where the public authority knows where the information is held.Score: 1 point for information not held, 1 for referrals or 2 for transfers2 YES Regulation No. 04(06): If the request relates to information which the Information Officer is aware is held by another Public Authority, the Information Officer shall duly in written format transfer the request to the concerned Public Authority and inform the citizen making the request accordingly within 7 days form the date of receipt of the request.
20 Public authorities are required to comply with requesters’ preferences regarding how they access information, subject only to clear and limited overrides (e.g. to protect a record).Score: 2 points for Yes, only 1 point if some limitations2 YES Section 24(5) A citizen making a request for information shall:– (b) identify the nature of the form and language in which the citizen prefers access; Section 27. (1) Where decision has been made to grant a request for information, such information shall be provided in the form in which it is requested for, unless the information officer is of the view that providing the information in the form requested for would not be detrimental to the safety or preservation of the relevant document or record in respect of which the request was made. (2) Where an information officer is unable to provide the information in the manner requested for, it shall be the duty of such officer to consult the citizen and render all possible assistance to the citizen to determine an appropriate alternative means of providing access to the information and to facilitate compliance with such request. (3) Subject to the provisions of subsection (1), a citizen, whose request for information has been granted, is entitled to:– (a) inspect relevant work, documents, records; (b) take notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records; (c) take certified samples of material; (d) obtain information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or any other electronic mode or through printouts where such information is stored in a computer or in any other device.
21 Public authorities are required to respond to requests as soon as possible.Score: No=0, Yes=2 points 2 YES Section 24(4) Where an information officer is able to provide an immediate response to a citizen making a request and such response is to the satisfaction of the requester, the information officer shall make and retain a record of the request and the response thereto. Section 25. (1) An information officer shall, as expeditiously as possible and in any case within fourteen working days of the receipt of a request under section 24, make a decision either to provide the information requested for on the payment of a fee determined in accordance with the fee schedule referred to in section 14(e) or to reject the request on any one or more of the grounds referred to in section 5 of this Act, and shall forthwith communicate such decision to the citizen who made the request. (2) Where a decision is made to provide the information requested for, access to such information shall be granted within fourteen days of arriving at such decision. \"as expeditiously as possible\"
22 There are clear and reasonable maximum timelines (20 working days or less) for responding to requests, regardless of the manner of satisfying the request (including through publication).Score: 1 point for timeframes of 20 working days (or 1 month, 30 days or 4 weeks). Score 2 points for 10 working days (or 15 days, or two weeks) or less.2 NO Section 25. (1) An information officer shall, as expeditiously as possible and in any case within fourteen working days of the receipt of a request under section 24, make a decision either to provide the information requested for on the payment of a fee determined in accordance with the fee schedule referred to in section 14(e) or to reject the request on any one or more of the grounds referred to in section 5 of this Act, and shall forthwith communicate such decision to the citizen who made the request. (2) Where a decision is made to provide the information requested for, access to such information shall be granted within fourteen days of arriving at such decision. 14 days and then there is another 14 days to provide information.
23 There are clear limits on timeline extensions (20 working days or less), including a requirement that requesters be notified and provided with the reasons for the extension.---2 YES Section 25(5) The period of fourteen days referred to in subsection (2) for providing access to information may be extended for a further period of not more than twenty one days where- (a) the request is for a large number of records and providing the information within fourteen days would unreasonably interfere with the activities of the public authority concerned; or (b) the request requires a search for records in, or collection of records from, an office of the public authority not situated in the same city, town or location as the office of the information officer that cannot reasonably be completed within the fourteen days. Section 25(6) Where a period for providing information is to be extended for any of the circumstances referred to in subsection (5), the information officer shall, as soon as reasonably possible, but in any case within fourteen days, notify the citizen concerned of such fact giving the following reasons:– (a) the period of the extension; and (b) reasons for the extension.
24 It is free to file requests.Score: No=0, Yes=2 points2 YES Section 14. The duties and functions of the Commission shall be, to – (c) issue guidelines based on reasonableness, for determining fees to be levied by public authorities for the release of any information under this Act;... (e) prescribe the fee Schedule based on the principle of proactive disclosure, in regard to providing information; Rule 3: Application Fees: (1) No Public Authority shall charge any fee to provide a Right to Information Application Form to a citizen making an information request. (2) No Public Authority shall charge any fee to process a Right to Information request. Act is not explicit about this but it is clear in the Rules.
25 There are clear rules relating to access fees, which are set centrally, rather than being determined by individual public authorities. These include a requirement that fees be limited to the cost of reproducing and sending the information (so that inspection of documents and electronic copies are free) and a certain initial number of pages (at least 20) are provided for free. Score 1 point for fees being limited to reproduction and delivery costs and set centrally, 1 point for at least 20 pages free of charge or for fees being optional2 Partially Section 14. The duties and functions of the Commission shall be, to – (c) issue guidelines based on reasonableness, for determining fees to be levied by public authorities for the release of any information under this Act;... (e) prescribe the fee Schedule based on the principle of proactive disclosure, in regard to providing information; Section 25. (1) An information officer shall, as expeditiously as possible and in any case within fourteen working days of the receipt of a request under section 24, make a decision either to provide the information requested for on the payment of a fee determined in accordance with the fee schedule referred to in section 14(e); (4) Notwithstanding the requirement made for the payment of a fee under subsection (1), the Commission may specify the circumstances in which information may be provided by an information officer, without the payment of a fee. Rule 4 contains detailed infomation about fees. Rule 6. Information provided free of charge: (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in Rule 4 above, the Public Authority shall provide information prepared or contained on four pages (A4 size) of photocopies or printing, free of cost. (2) Information that is ordinarily available free of charge shall continue to be provided free of charge. Act calls for central schedule which must be reasonable and then the Fee Schedule in the Rules elaborates. Only 4 pages for free.
26   There are fee waivers for impecunious requesters ---2 Partially Section 14. The duties and functions of the Commission shall be, to – (d) prescribe the circumstances in which information may be provided by an information officer, without the payment of a fee; Section 25(4) Notwithstanding the requirement made for the payment of a fee under subsection (1), the Commission may specify the circumstances in which information may be provided by an information officer, without the payment of a fee. Not in place yet but clearly intended.
27 There are no limitations on or charges for reuse of information received from public bodies, except where a third party (which is not a public authority) holds a legally-protected copyright over the information. Score: No=0, Yes=2 points2 YES Regulation No. 19: Use and Reuse of information: 01. Any information disclosed by a Public Authority under this Act is subject to a royalty-free, perpetual, nonexclusive licence to reuse the information. 02. For purposes of clause 01, reuse includes copying, publishing, translating, adapting, distributing or otherwise using in any medium, mode or format for any lawful purpose.


Exceptions

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28 The standards in the RTI Law trump restrictions on information disclosure (secrecy provisions) in other legislation to the extent of any conflict.Score 4 points for a resounding "yes" and 1/2/3 points if only for some classes of information or for some exceptions. If the state secrets law is not trumped by the RTI law max score is 2 points. 4 YES Section 4. The provisions of this Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything to the contrary in any other written law and accordingly in the event of any inconsistency or conflict between the provisions of this Act and such other written law, the provisions of this Act shall prevail.
29 The exceptions to the right of access are consistent with international standards. Permissible exceptions are: national security; international relations; public health and safety; the prevention, investigation and prosecution of legal wrongs; privacy; legitimate commercial and other economic interests; management of the economy; fair administration of justice and legal advice privilege; conservation of the environment; and legitimate policy making and other operations of public authorities. It is also permissible to refer requesters to information which is already publicly available, for example online or in published form.Score 10 points and then deduct 1 point for each exception which either (a) falls outside of this list and/or (b) is more broadly framed10 Partially See generally, section 5. The excessive exceptions are section 5. (1) Subject to the provisions of subsection (2) a request under this Act for access to information shall be refused, where– ... (f) the information consist of any communication, between a professional and a public authority to whom such professional provides services, which is not permitted to be disclosed under any written law, including any communication between the Attorney General or any officer assisting the Attorney General in the performance of his duties and a public authority;... (k) the disclosure of such information would infringe the privileges of Parliament or of a Provincial Council as provided by Law; ... (3) Any information relating to any overseas trade agreement referred to in subsection (1) (c ) (v) of this section, where the negotiations have not concluded even after a lapse of ten years shall not be disclosed. Exceptions in favour of communications between professionals, the privileges of Parliament and trade agreements are not legitimate.
30 A harm test applies to all exceptions, so that it is only where disclosure poses a risk of actual harm to a protected interest that it may be refused. Score 4 points and then deduct 1 point for each exception which is not subject to the harm test 4 Partially See generally, section 5. The exceptions without a harm test are section 5. (1) Subject to the provisions of subsection (2) a request under this Act for access to information shall be refused, where– ... (i) subject to the provisions of section 29(2)(c), the information has been supplied in confidence to the public authority concerned by a third party and the third party does not consent to its disclosure; (j) the disclosure of such information would be in contempt of court or prejudicial to the maintenance of the authority and impartiality of the judiciary; ... (m) the information is of a cabinet memorandum in relation to which a decision has not been taken; Exceptions in favour of third party information, contempt of court and cabinet memos are not harm tested.
31 There is a mandatory public interest override so that information must be disclosed where this is in the overall public interest, even if this may harm a protected interest. There are ‘hard’ overrides (which apply absolutely), for example for information about human rights, corruption or crimes against humanity.Consider whether the override is subject to overarching limitations, whether it applies to only some exceptions, and whether it is mandatory.4 YES section 5. (1) Subject to the provisions of subsection (2) a request under this Act for access to information shall be refused, where– (a) the information relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information or the person concerned has consented in writing to such disclosure; ... (d) information, including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, protected under the Intellectual Property Act, No. 36 of 2003, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the public authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information; ... (4) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (1), a request for information shall not be refused where the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the harm that would result from its disclosure. And section 29. (1) Where a request made to an information officer by any citizen to disclose information which relates to, or has been supplied by a third party and such information has been treated as confidential at the time the information was supplied, the information officer shall, within one week of the receipt of such request, invite such third party by notice issued in writing, to make representation for or against such disclosure, within seven days of the receipt of the notice. (2) An information officer shall be required in making his decision on any request made for the disclosure of information which relates to or has been supplied by a third party, to take into consideration the representations made by such third party under subsection (1), and shall, where the third party- ... (c) responds to the notice and refuses to the disclosure of the information requested for, deny access to the information requested for: Provided however, the Commission may on the application made in that behalf by the citizen making the request, direct the disclosure of the information in question notwithstanding any objections raised by such third party against its disclosure, where the release of the information concerned demonstrably outweighs the private interest in non disclosure.
32 Information must be released as soon as an exception ceases to apply (for example, for after a contract tender process decision has been taken). The law contains a clause stating that exceptions to protect public interests do not apply to information which is over 20 years old.Score 1 point for each2 Partially Section 5(2) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (1), a request for information shall not be refused on any of the grounds referred to therein, other than the grounds referred to in paragraphs (a), (b), (d), (e), (f), (g), (h) and (j) of that subsection, if the information requested for is over ten years old. There is an overall time limit, but only for a few exceptions, and no indication that exceptions cease to when the harm ceases.
33 Clear and appropriate procedures are in place for consulting with third parties who provided information which is the subject of a request on a confidential basis. Public authorities shall take into account any objections by third parties when considering requests for information, but third parties do not have veto power over the release of information.Score: 1 point for consultation, 1 further point if original time frames must be respected and the law allows for expedited appeals.2 YES Section 29. (1) Where a request made to an information officer by any citizen to disclose information which relates to, or has been supplied by a third party and such information has been treated as confidential at the time the information was supplied, the information officer shall, within one week of the receipt of such request, invite such third party by notice issued in writing, to make representation for or against such disclosure, within seven days of the receipt of the notice. (2) An information officer shall be required in making his decision on any request made for the disclosure of information which relates to or has been supplied by a third party, to take into consideration the representations made by such third party under subsection (1), and shall, where the third party- (a) does not respond to the notice, disclose information requested for; (b) responds to the notice and agrees to the disclosure of the information requested for, disclose such information; (c) responds to the notice and refuses to the disclosure of the information requested for, deny access to the information requested for: Provided however, the Commission may on the application made in that behalf by the citizen making the request, direct the disclosure of the information in question notwithstanding any objections raised by such third party against its disclosure, where the release of the information concerned demonstrably outweighs the private interest in non disclosure.
34 There is a severability clause so that where only part of a record is covered by an exception the remainder must be disclosed. Score 1 point if yes but sometimes can be refused (eg: if deletions render meaningless the document) and 2 points if partial access must always be granted2 YES Section 6. Where a request for information is refused on any of the grounds referred to in section 5, access shall nevertheless be given to that part of any record or document which contains any information that is not exempted from being disclosed under that section, and which can reasonably be severed from any part that contains information exempted from being disclosed.
35 When refusing to provide access to information, public authorities must a) state the exact legal grounds and reason(s) for the refusal and b) inform the applicant of the relevant appeals procedures.Score Y/N: 1 point for a and 1 point for b2 YES Section 25. (1) An information officer shall, as expeditiously as possible and in any case within fourteen working days of the receipt of a request under section 24, make a decision either to provide the information requested for on the payment of a fee determined in accordance with the fee schedule referred to in section 14(e) or to reject the request on any one or more of the grounds referred to in section 5 of this Act, and shall forthwith communicate such decision to the citizen who made the request. Article 28. Where a request for information is refused by an information officer, such officer shall specify the following information in the communication to be sent under section 25(1), to the citizen who made the request– (a) the grounds on which such request is refused; and (b) the period within which and the person to whom an appeal against such refusal may be preferred under section 32 of this Act.


Appeals

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36 The law offers an internal appeal which is simple, free of charge and completed within clear timelines (20 working days or less).Score 2 points if the internal appeal fulfills these criteria, 1 point if an appeal is offered that does not fulfill this criteria, 0 for no internal appeals.2 YES Section31. (1) Any citizen who is aggrieved as a result of– (a) refusing a request made for information; … may, prefer an appeal to the designated officer within fourteen days of the refusal, act or date of becoming aware of the grounds on which the appeal is sought to be made, as the case may be: ... (2) The designated officer shall issue a receipt on the acceptance of the appeal, to the citizen making the appeal, and in any case within three working days. (3) The decision on any appeal preferred under subsection (1), shall be made by the designated officer within three weeks of the receipt of the appeal and shall include the reasons for the said decision including specific grounds for the same.
37 Requesters have the right to lodge an (external) appeal with an independent administrative oversight body (e.g. an information commission or ombudsman). 1 for partial, 2 for yes2 YES Section 32. (1) Any citizen aggrieved by:– (a) the decision made in respect of an appeal under section 31(1), may within two months of the communication of such decision; … may appeal against that decision or the failure, to the Commission and the Commission may within thirty days of the receipt of such appeal affirm, vary or reverse the decision appealed against and forward the request back to the information officer concerned for necessary action.
38 The member(s) of the oversight body are appointed in a manner that is protected against political interference and have security of tenure so they are protected against arbitrary dismissal (procedurally/substantively) once appointed.Score: 1 point for appointment procedure, 1 point for security of tenure2 YES Section 12. (1) The Commission shall consist of five persons appointed by the President upon the recommendation of the Constitutional Council. In making such recommendations, the Constitutional Council shall recommend one person nominated by each of the following organisations or categories of organisations:- (a) Bar Association of Sri Lanka which shall nominate an Attorney-at-Law of eminence or a Legal Academic in consultation with Attorneys -at-Law and Legal Academia; (b) organizations of publishers, editors and media persons; (c) other civil society organizations ... (6) The members of the Commission shall hold office for a period of five years. Schedule, clause (2) The President may on the recommendation of the Constitutional Council remove from office a member of the Commission, where:- (a) such member has become permanently incapable of performing his or her duties owing to any physical disability or unsoundness of mind; (b) such member is unfit to perform his or her duties on the basis of moral turpitude; or (c) such member is convicted of an offence by a competent court of law.
39 The oversight body reports to and has its budget approved by the parliament, or other effective mechanisms are in place to protect its financial independence.Score 1 point for reports to parliament, 1 point for budget approved by parliament2 YES Section 16. (1) The Commission shall have its own Fund into which shall be credited- (a) all such sums of money as may be voted upon from time to time by Parliament for the use of the Commission; and (b) donations, gifts or grants from any source whatsoever, whether in or outside Sri Lanka. (2) Where any money is received by way of donations, gifts or grants under subsection (1)(b), the sources and purpose for which such donation, grant or gift was made available shall be made public. See also sections 17, 18 and 20.
40 There are prohibitions on individuals with strong political connections from being appointed to this body and requirements of professional expertise.Score 1 point for not politically connected, 1 point for professional expertise2 YES Section (2) (a) In making recommendations under subsection (1), the Constitutional Council shall ensure that the persons who are being recommended are persons who- (i) have distinguished themselves in public life with proven knowledge, experience and eminence in the fields of law, governance, public administration, social services, journalism, science and technology or management; (ii) are not Members of Parliament, any Provincial Council or a local authority; (iii) do not hold any public or judicial office or any other office of profit; (iv) are not connected with any political party; or (v) are not carrying on any business or pursuing any profession.
41 The independent oversight body has the necessary mandate and power to perform its functions, including to review classified documents and inspect the premises of public bodies.Score 1 point for reviewing classified documents, 1 point for inspection powers2 Partially Section 15. For the purpose of performing its duties and discharging of its functions under this Act, the Commission shall have the power- (a) to hold inquiries and require any person to appear before it; (b) to examine such person under oath or affirmation and require such person where necessary to produce any information which is in that person’s possession, provided that the information which is exempted from disclosure under section 5 shall be examined in confidence; (c) to inspect any information held by a public authority, including any information denied by a public authority under the provisions of this Act; No power of inspection
42 The decisions of the independent oversight body are binding. Score N=0, Y=2 points2 YES Section 39. (1) Every person who– … (e) fails or refuses to comply with or give effect to a decision of the Commission; … commits an offence under this Act and shall on conviction after summary trial by a Magistrate be liable to a fine not exceeding fifty thousand rupees or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both such fine and imprisonment. Not a direct power but it seems to amount to the same thing.
43 In deciding an appeal, the independent oversight body has the power to order appropriate remedies for the requester, including the declassification of information. 1 for partial, 2 for fully2 YES Section 15. For the purpose of performing its duties and discharging of its functions under this Act, the Commission shall have the power- … (d) to direct a public authority to provide information, in a particular form; (e) to direct a public authority to publish any information withheld by a public authority from the public, subject to the provisions of section 5; ... and (g) to direct a public authority or any relevant information officer of the authority to reimburse fees charged from a citizen due to any information requested for not been provided in time.
44 Requesters have the right to lodge a judicial appeal.1 for partially, 2 for fully.2 YES Section 34. (1) A citizen or public authority who is aggrieved by the decision of the Commission made under section 32, may appeal against such decision to the Court of Appeal within one month of the date on which such decision was communicated to such citizen or public authority.
45 Appeals to the oversight body (where applicable, or to the judiciary if no such body exists) are free of charge and do not require legal assistance.1 for free, 1 for no lawyer required. 2 YES Rule 31: Fees: An appeal to the Commission is exempt from the payment of a fee. Rule 14. Making of the Appeal: Where the aggrieved party is unable due to any reason to make an appeal under Section 32 of the Act, as the case may be, such Appeal may be made by a person duly authorized in writing by the aggrieved party to prefer the same. Clear that the applicant may either make the appeal him- or herself or with legal assistance.
46 The grounds for appeal to the oversight body (where applicable, or to the judiciary if no such body exists) are broad (including not only refusals to provide information but also refusals to provide information in the form requested, administrative silence and other breach of timelines, charging excessive fees, etc.).Score 1 point for appealing refusals, additional points for appealing other violations.4 YES Section 31. (1) Any citizen who is aggrieved as a result of– (a) refusing a request made for information; (b) refusing access to the information on the ground that such information is exempted from being granted under section 5; (c) non- compliance with time frames specified by this Act; (d) granting of incomplete, misleading or false information; (e) charging an excessive fees; (f) the refusal of the information officer to provide information in the form requested; or (g) the citizen requesting having reasonable grounds to believe that information has been deformed, destroyed or misplaced to prevent such citizen from having access to the information, may, prefer an appeal to the designated officer within fourteen days of the refusal, act or date of becoming aware of the grounds on which the appeal is sought to be made, as the case may be:
47 Clear procedures, including timelines, are in place for dealing with external appeals (oversight/judicial).Score 1 point for clear procedures, 1 point for timelines. 2 YES Section 32. (1) Any citizen aggrieved by:– (a) the decision made in respect of an appeal under section 31(1), may within two months of the communication of such decision; … may appeal against that decision or the failure, to the Commission and the Commission may within thirty days of the receipt of such appeal affirm, vary or reverse the decision appealed against and forward the request back to the information officer concerned for necessary action. ... (3) The Commission shall give reasons for its decisions in writing, to the appellant, the information officer and the public authority concerned.
48 In the appeal process (oversight/judicial/) the government bears the burden of demonstrating that it did not operate in breach of the rules.Score Y/N and award 2 points for yes. 2 YES Section 32(4) On appeal, the burden of proof shall be on the public authority to show that it acted in compliance with this Act in processing a request.
49 The external appellate body has the power to impose appropriate structural measures on the public authority (e.g. to conduct more training or to engage in better record management)1 for partial, 2 for fully. 2 YES Rule 27: Decision of the Commission: (1) In deciding an Appeal, the Commission may in affirming, varying or reversing the decision appealed against and forwarding the request back to the Information Officer concerned for necessary action in terms of Section 32(1) of the Act, make inter alia, the following orders: (c) Direct better records management on the part of the Public Authority; (d) Direct greater proactive disclosure obligations to be adhered to by the Public Authority; (e) Direct enhanced training programmes to be conducted by a Public Authority for its officers and/or employees;


Sanctions & Proteccions

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50 Sanctions may be imposed on those who wilfully act to undermine the right to information, including through the unauthorised destruction of information.Score 1 point for sanctions for underming right, 1 point for destruction of documents 2 YES Section 38. (1) Where– (a) any information officer wilfully - (i) refuses to receive an application for information from any citizen; (ii) refuses a request made for information, without giving reasons for such refusal; (iii) stipulates excessive fees in breach of the fee Schedule referred to in section 14 (e); (iv) otherwise fails to process a request in accordance with the provisions of this Act; or (b) any designated officer wilfully – (i) under section 31 refuses an appeal, made on any ground other than a ground specified in section 5 of this Act; (ii) failed without any reasonable cause to make a decision on an appeal, within the time specified under section 31(3) for making such decision, the Commission shall, bring the matter to the notice of the appropriate disciplinary authority. (2) The relevant disciplinary authority shall inform the Commission of the steps taken in respect of any matter brought to the notice of such disciplinary authority within a period of one month. Section 39. (1) Every person who– (a) deliberately obstructs the provision of information or intentionally provides incorrect, incomplete or inaccurate information; (b) destroys, invalidates, alters or totally or partially conceal information under his or her custody, or to which he or she has access to or knowledge of due to the exercise of his or her employment in such public authority; (c) fails or refuses to appear before the Commission when requested to do so by the Commission; (d) appears before the Commission, and fails or refuses to be examined by the Commission or to produce any information which is in that persons possession or power or deliberately provides false information under oath or affirmation; (e) fails or refuses to comply with or give effect to a decision of the Commission; (f) resists or obstructs the Commission or any officer or other employee of the Commission, in the exercise of any power conferred on the Commission or such officer or employee, by this Act; (g) discloses any information in contravention of the provisions of section 12(7) of this Act, commits an offence under this Act and shall on conviction after summary trial by a Magistrate be liable to a fine not exceeding fifty thousand rupees or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both such fine and imprisonment. (2) Any officer whose assistance was sought for by an information officer under section 23(3) and who fails without reasonable cause to provide such assistance, shall commit an offence under this Act, and shall on conviction after summary trial by a Magistrate be liable to a fine not exceeding ten thousand rupees. (3) A fine imposed for the commission of an offence referred to in subsection (1) or (2) of this section, shall be in addition to and not in derogation of any disciplinary action that may be taken against such officer by the relevant authority empowered to do so. (4) A prosecution under this Act shall be instituted by the Commission.
51 There is a system for redressing the problem of public authorities which systematically fail to disclose information or underperform (either through imposing sanctions on them or requiring remedial actions of them).Score 1 point for either remedial action or sanctions, 2 points for both 2 NO Not mentioned
52 The independent oversight body and its staff are granted legal immunity for acts undertaken in good faith in the exercise or performance of any power, duty or function under the RTI Law. Others are granted similar immunity for the good faith release of information pursuant to the RTI Law.Score 1 for oversight body, 1 for immunity for others2 YES Section 21. Any expenses incurred by any member, officer or employee of the Commission in any suit or prosecution brought by or against such person before any court in respect of any act or omission which is done or purported to be done by such person in good faith for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of this Act shall, if the court holds that such act or omission was done in good faith, be paid out of the fund of the Commission unless such expenses are recovered by him in such suit or prosecution. Section 30. No liability, whether civil or criminal, shall attach to any public authority or any information officer or any other officer of such public authority, for anything which in good faith is done by such officer in the performance or exercise of any function or power imposed or assigned to such officer under this Act. Section 40. Notwithstanding any legal or other obligation to which a person may be subject to by virtue of being an officer or employee of any public authority, no officer or employee of a public authority shall be subjected to any punishment, disciplinary or otherwise, for releasing or disclosing any information which is permitted to be released or disclosed under this Act.
53 There are legal protections against imposing sanctions on those who, in good faith, release information which discloses wrongdoing (i.e. whistleblowers).Score 2 for strong protections, 1 for moderate protections2 NO Not mentioned


Promotional measures

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Comments
54 Public authorities are required to appoint dedicated officials (information officers) or units with a responsibility for ensuring that they comply with their information disclosure obligations.Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 YES Section 23. (1) (a) Every public authority shall for the purpose of giving effect to the provisions of this Act, appoint, within three months of the date of coming into operation of this Act, one or more officers as information officers of such public authority and a designated officer to hear appeals. (b) Until such time that an information officer is appointed under paragraph (a) the Head or Chief Executive Officer of the public authority shall be deemed to be the information officer of such public authority, for the purposes of this Act.
55 A central body, such as an information commission(er) or government department, is given overall responsibility for promoting the right to information. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 YES Section 2. It shall be the responsibility of the Ministry of the Minister assigned the subject of mass media to ensure the effective implementation of the provisions of this Act. Secttion 14. The duties and functions of the Commission shall be, to – (a) monitor the performance and ensure the due compliance by public authorities, of the duties cast on them under this Act;
56 Public awareness-raising efforts (e.g. producing a guide for the public or introducing RTI awareness into schools) are required to be undertaken by law. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 YES Section 8. (1) It shall be the duty of every Minister to whom any subject has been assigned to publish biannually before the thirtieth of June and thirty first of December respectively of each year, a report in such form as shall be determined by the Commission as would enable a citizen to exercise the right of access to information granted under section 3 of this Act. Secttion 14. The duties and functions of the Commission shall be, to –(g) publicise the requirements of this Act and the rights of individuals under the Act; Section 22. The Commission shall within six months of its establishment, formulate and give adequate publicity to the procedural requirements for the submission of appeals to the Commission under section 32. Section 26. (1) Every public authority shall display in a conspicuous place within the official premises and on a website of such public Authority if any, a notice specifying– (a) contact details of the Commission and the members of the Commission; (b) contact details of the information officer; (c) contact details of the designated officer; (d) fees to be charged for obtaining any information from such public Authority.
57 A system is in place whereby minimum standards regarding the management of records are set and applied. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 YES Section 7. (1) It shall be the duty of every public authority to maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed in such form as is consistent with its operational requirements which would facilitate the right of access to information as provided for in this Act. (2) In discharging its obligations under subsection (1), every public authority shall comply with any direction given by the Commission under section 14(h). Secttion 14. The duties and functions of the Commission shall be, to – ... (h) issue guidelines for the proper record management for public authorities.
58 Public authorities are required to create and update lists or registers of the documents in their possession, and to make these public. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 YES Section (2) The report referred to in subsection (1) shall contain- … (b) the following particulars pertaining to the Ministry and the public authorities referred to in paragraph (a):- … (iii) rules, regulations, instructions, manuals and any other categories of records, which are used by its officers and employees in the discharge of their functions, performance of their duties and exercise of their powers; Regulation No. 20: Proactive Disclosure of information: 01. In accordance with the power to direct a Public Authority to provide information in a particular form under Section 15(d) of the Act and in keeping with the overriding principle of Proactive Disclosure,all Public Authorities shall routinely disseminate, at a minimum, the following key Information including through a digital or electronic format; xii. Information about information held: An index or register of documents/ information held including details of information held in databases. Clear requirement in the Regulations.
59 Training programs for officials are required Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 YES Section 14. The duties and functions of the Commission shall be, to –(f) co-operate with or undertake training activities for public officials on the effective implementation of the provisions of this Act; Regulation No. 21: Information Officers: 06. Public Authorities shall, within one year of the Act coming into effect, ensure that their Information Officer(s) have received appropriate training on how to apply the Act.
60 Public authorities are required to report annually on the actions they have taken to implement their disclosure obligations. This includes statistics on requests received and how they were dealt with. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 YES Section 10. Every public authority shall submit annual reports to the Commission before the thirty first day of December immediately succeeding the year to which the report relates which shall be made available to the public in its office and on its official website, furnishing information such as- (a) the total number of requests received during the year and information provided and rejected; (b) the amount of fees collected during the year; (c) the number of requests rejected under section 5; (d) the number of times information was provided at the direction of the Commission; (e) any suggestions for improving the effectiveness of the regime of transparency; (f) the number of appeals from refusal to communicate information; (g) practices relating to the maintenance, management and destruction of records; and (h) its activities under section 8.
61 A central body, such as an information commission(er) or government department, has an obligation to present a consolidated report to the legislature on implementation of the law. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 YES Section 37. (1) The Commission shall cause to be prepared a report of its activities as often as it may consider necessary, so however, that it shall prepare at least one report in each calendar year. The Commission shall transmit a copy of every such report to be tabled before Parliament and a copy of same shall also be sent to the President. (2) A copy of the report prepared under subsection (1) shall, within two weeks of it being tabled before Parliament, be made available for public inspection at the office of the Commission and wherever possible, a copy of the same may be made available on its website.