8.8 C
London
Sunday, April 14, 2024

In a land mark RTI judgement, Court of Appel directs Sri Lanka Parliament to release info on MPs Declaration of Assets.

In a land mark judgment today the Court of Appeal upheld  directive by RTI commission to Sri Lanka Parliament to release information on MPs who have submitted their Declarations of Assets.
Court of Appeal agreed with the Commission Order on all points and  upheld  that the RTI Act of Sri Lanka supersedes the 1970’s Declarations of Assets and Liabilities Act of Sri Lanka.
It has taken five long years, for the appellant Chamara Sampath to get a decision on his RTI application.
In 21 June 2018 Chamara Sampath of “Sathuta”, Pannala, Yatigaloluwa made a RTI requesting the following information from the Information Officer of the Parliament.
1. The list of names of members of Parliament who have handed over their respective declarations of assets and liabilities in 2018.
2. The list of names of MPs who have handed over their declarations from 2010 up to the date of his request.
The Information Officer of the parliament  by his letter dated 21-08-2018 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.
Then Chamara Sampth  appealed  to the RTI commission. The Commission upheld his request and ordered relevant officers of the Sri Lanka parliament to release the requested information.
Then those officers summitted an appeal to the Court of Appeal in order to get the the RTI commission order overturned.
They argued that “the Commission erred in law in failing to appreciate that the DALL will prevail over the provisions of the Right to Information Act No. 12 of 2016, which is a general law, in accordance with the well-established maxim “Generalia Specialibus Non Derogat”
“The Commission erred in law in failing to appreciate that the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Law No.1 of 1975 specifically prohibits the disclosure of a declaration of assets and liabilities except in the manner set out under the said Law.
” The Commission erred in law in failing to appreciate that theDeclaration of Assets and Liabilities of the Members of Parliament constitute personal information, the disclosure of which would lead to an unwarranted invasion of privacy.
“The Commission erred in law when it failed to appreciate that thedisclosure of information pertaining to the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities of the Members of Parliament under the Right to Information Act would constitute a breach of the powers and privileges of Parliament.”
The Court of Appeal judge Sampath B Abayakoon, rejected the appeal saying that:
” I am in no position to agree with the stand taken up by the appellants before the Commission that, if provided, the information requested would violate the rights
and privileges of the Members of Parliament.
“As determined rightly by the Commission, I am of the view that providing the list of names of the Members of Parliament who have tendered their declaration of assets and liabilities as required by law is not disclosing the information they have provided in the declarations. I find that the argument advanced on that basis had also been an attempt to frustrate the purposes of the RTI Act.
Members of Parliament are persons who are elected by the people and maintained by the people. They are expected to abide by the laws of the country at all time and provide examples for others to follow. Under the provisions of the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Law, any person who comes under the provisions of the Law, fails to provide the relevant declaration of assets and liabilities as required, would be committing an offence punishable with a fine or imprisonment of either description or both such fine and imprisonment.
“It is therefore important for the public to know whether the relevant authorities have acted as required by law or not. The only way to obtain that information would be by seeking the list of the name of the Members of Parliament who have provided their declarations under the RTI Act.
“I find that under no circumstances, providing such a list would amount to providing the details of the assets and liabilities of each Member of Parliament.”
Appeal court judge P. Kumararatnam  agreed to the dicision.
Read the full judgement as a PDF: ca-rti-0004-2021 final judgement

Archive

Latest news

Related news