With the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka holding as unconstitutional several clauses of the Right to Information Bill, the Government is to study the Apex Court’s determination before proceeding further, The Hindu newspaper reported.
The Court, after hearing four petitions questioning the constitutionality of the Bill, concluded that four clauses of the legislation, which was taken up for the first reading in Parliament on March 24, violated certain Articles of the Constitution.
On the Court’s findings, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, Justice Minister, told The Hindu on Saturday morning that “we have not yet examined the Court’s ruling closely.” To a query whether the government would go by the Court’s advice on the amendments, the Minister replied that “we would look into it.”
The failure to stipulate the provision on maintenance of the authority and impartiality of the judiciary as a ground for denial of information and the discrepancy in the definition of public authority to cover private educational institutions were among the provisions challenged.
If the Government wanted to have the Bill to be adopted in the present form, it had to get a two-thirds majority and the approval of people through a referendum. However, the Court suggested a way out for the government to get the parliamentary approval for the proposed law with a simple majority if the Court’s suggestions were incorporated in the text. Recently, Speaker of the Parliament, Karu Jayasuriya, informed the House about the decision of the Supreme Court.
The Bill envisages the establishment of a five-member Information Commission, which will monitor the performance and ensure the due compliance by public authorities. It also requires Ministers to provide information on projects, which come under the jurisdiction of the latter, to the public generally and people likely to be affected by the projects, three months prior to the commencement of such projects. The Part II of the Bill, dealing with denial of access to information, cites various grounds including defence and economy.