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Police violates the RTI Act; Will the RTI commission take action to take IGP justice? – Tharindu Jayawardene 

Some information officers of the Sri Lanka Police and the Inspector General of Police are continuously violating the Right to Information Act. It has been further confirmed in a recent appeal hearing.

On October 9, 2022, the police stormed and attacked a peaceful celebration at the Galle Face and arrested a group of people. We (a group of lawyers, journalists, and others) informed the OIC of  Fort Police in writing that we ( group of lawyers, journalists, and others) will hold a protest and a march against that barbaric behaviour and hold a peaceful and silent protest on October 10 at Galle Face. After that, when we were walking along the sidewalk to the lawyer’s office without disturbing anyone, the police blocked the sidewalk and the road completely and stopped our journey.

We tried to explain about it, but the police did not care. The police treated it as malicious. When I went to the Fort Police Station on October 11 to file a complaint against Senior Superintendent of Police Roshan Dias (now DIG) and Assistant Superintendent of Police Nalinda Dilruk, who had blocked us, police squeezed my hand and assaulted me without accepting the complaint.

After this incident, two complaints were made to the police headquarters on 10/11/2022 against Nalinda Dilruk and Roshan Dias for stopping our journey.

In relation to those two complaints, I was brought to the Colombo Crime Division on two occasions and an Assistant Superintendent of Police of Colombo South recorded my statements on one occasion, but no notification was given as to what happened to those complaints.

Accordingly, an information request was forwarded to the Information Officer of the Police Headquarters of the Sri Lanka Police requesting information under item 12 of the RTI Act about the actions taken regarding the relevant complaints. The decision of the information officer should be notified within 14 working days regarding an information request. As no information or decision was received within 14 days, an appeal was made to the named officers, the Inspector General of Police. They had to give a decision within 21 days, but we did not receive any response, so they appealed to the Information Commission.

The appeal was heard on 08th August. At the hearing Sri Lanka Police agreed to provide all relevant information within two weeks. Accordingly, the commission informed the police to release the relevant information before 22nd August. Further, the commission clearly stated that the non-response by the information officer and the designated officer to the information request is a serious violation of the provisions of the Right to Information Act by the two concerned officers.

the Commission cannot tolerate the violation of the provisions of the Information Act lightly, and if the provisions of the Information Act are not properly implemented, legal action will have to be taken against the designated officer of the Sri Lanka Police and the Information Officer.

Sections 38 and 39 of the RTI Act refer to the action to be taken against officials who violate the  Act. There are provisions for taking disciplinary action against officials as well as taking judicial action.

The police did not respond to requests for information and the commission’s decision to provide information before the 22nd has been ignored. Section 39 of the Information Act states that it is an offense punishable by up to two years in a case conducted by a magistrate court. The Information Commission should file the case in the Magistrate’s Court.

Accordingly, today I made a written request to the Information Commission to act under Section 39 of the Act against the Police Information Officer and the designated officer. It is expected that the commission will take the relevant measures without delay.

23/08/2023

(Translated by SLB from Sinhala language note shared by the author; Caption by SLB)

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