Sri Lanka Court Faults Five Minor Clauses in RTI Bill

5 May 2016

Sri Lanka’s highest court has declared that five minor parts of a right to information bill are unconstitutional and would need a two-thirds majority in Parliament to become law, but alterations could allow passage on a majority vote.

“The amendments suggested by the SC are mostly of technical nature and do not undermine the purpose of the draft bill,” a Sri Lankan expert told FreedomInfo.org.

House Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said a two-thirds vote would be needed to pass the bill in its present form, or a simple majority if the sections deemed inconsistent with the Constitution were amended. The Court suggested amendments.

The Supreme Court decision identifies found five articles of the bill as contravening the Constitution, according to a Daily News article and a New First article.

The court, however, rejected objections to the inclusion in the bill of a restriction against disclosure of information that would cause serious prejudice to the economy of Sri Lanka,” called it “justified as part and parcel of protecting the rights of others and the economy of Sri Lanka.” It also upheld a redaction provision and the proposed rules for creating an information commission.

On the unconstitutional side, the Court said a provision promising information to “members of the public” was too broad and that the Constitution refers to information for citizens. Private educational institution should be exempted, the Court said, and a provision relating the courts should be redrafted. The government said that several troublesome clauses on “public officers” will be rewritten, the Court noted.

The bill presented in March is a key election pledge by President Maithripala Sirisena.

ABC News reported: “Sirisena leads a government that includes the two largest political parties and commands two-thirds support. However, it is unclear if all government lawmakers will support the bill in its present form.”

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