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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Right to Information: Litro Gas directs release of salary info. of top officials

  • Litro Gas argued against the release of the details pertaining to release of salary details of top management
  • Information was sought by the ex-employee of Litro Gas who claims his services were unfairly terminated 
  • The CA held the information serves the larger public interest
  • CA stated that Litro Gas is a PA as the State owns 99.7% shares of SLIC which in turn owns over 90 % of Litro Gas

The Court of Appeal has upheld an Order by the Right to Information (RTI) Commission declaring Litro Gas Lanka Ltd., and Litro Gas Terminal Lanka (Pvt) Ltd., as a Public Authority (PA) and directed the release of the salary details of the top officials of the company.

The case was heard before Justice D.N. Samarakoon.

The R e s p o n d e n t – Petitioners in the case are Litro Gas Lanka Ltd (LGLL) and Litro Gas Terminal Lanka Ltd.,

The appellant respondent in the case is W. K. Sudarshan Karunarathne, a Chartered Engineer who was the Operations Director of Litro Gas Lanka Ltd., claims his services were unfairly terminated and that there is an application pending in the Labour Tribunal.

He had requested the monthly salary and monthly allowances of top Management of Litro Gas including the Chairman, Managing Director, Finance Director, Sales and Marketing Director, Operations Director – Litro Gas Terminal, Human Resources Director, Procurement Director, Health Safety and Environment Director and the Head of Special Projects.

The appellant respondent also sought the amount of loans each had taken and amount of loans to be paid back and the interest rate for the amount to be paid back by these officials.

However Litro Gas refused to divulge the details and informed the appellant respondent that “Litro Gas Lanka Limited and Litro Gas Terminal Lanka (Private) Limited are companies incorporated under the Companies Act No. 07 of 2007 and in terms of section 3(1) of the Right to Information Act No. 12 of 2016, the citizens will get the right to access information which is in the possession custody or control of a Public Authority. Litro Gas had argued that the Act does not cover companies other than the public authorities expressly defined in terms of the referred Law.

When the RTI Commission took up the appeal by the appellant respondent, the Commission dismissed the position that Litro Gas does not qualify as a PA and directed Litro Gas to provide the requested information.

The CA upheld the Order of the RTI Commission and stated that Litro Gas is a PA as the State owns 99.7% shares of Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation (SLIC) and SLIC holds 99.3% of LGLL and 100% of Litro Gas Terminal Lanka Private Ltd.

The Court also held that information on salaries is personal information but public interest overrides this as public funds are involved. In the Order the CA also emphasised the need for a proper balance between privacy and the larger public interest.

The CA said that the citizen who asked for the information is one of the public and serves the larger public interest and the fact that he is an ex-employee of Litro Gas is of no relevance.

The Court also held that grounds such as commercial interests, trade secrets, competitive position of a third party are not relevant when salary information is sought and that Litro Gas who challenged the Order of the RTI Commission in the CA has ‘failed to understand the true nature of that exception given under (Section 5 (1)(d) of the RTI Act.

The Court also said that as per Article 14A of the Constitution, reputation and rights of others as well as privacy may stand as reasons to deny information of salaries but that the larger public interest goes above all of that.

The Court held the RTI Commission was right in its decision to order release of information and dismissed the petitioner’s application with costs

Daily FT

26.02.24

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