The right to information is considered as one of the human rights. Article 14 (A) of the Constitution of Sri Lanka also addresses this right of the people. Furthermore, the right to information act No.12 of 2016 was enacted to enforce the right to information in a more practical manner. It can be pointed out that the act has opened up a more effective way for people to exercise their right to information.
The main objective of the ‘Publication’ of the RTI act is to exercise democracy in a meaningful manner, through the building and nurturing a culture of transparency and accountability in public authorities.
What exactly is a “Public Authority”?
According to the interpretation given under section no.43 of the RTI act ;
(a) a Ministry of the Government;
(b) anybody or office created or established by or under the Constitution, any written law, other than the Companies Act No. 7 of 2007, except to the extent specified in paragraph
(c) a Government Department;
(d) a public corporation;
(e) a company incorporated under the Companies Act, No. 7 of 2007, in which the State, or a public corporation or the State and a public corporation together hold twenty-five per centum or more of the shares or otherwise has a controlling interest; Right to Information Act, No. 12 of 2016 31
(f) a local authority;
(g) a private entity or organization which is carrying out a statutory or public function or service, under a contract, a partnership, an agreement or a license from the government or its agencies or from a local body, but only to the extent of activities covered by that statutory or public function or service;
(h) any department or other authority or institution established or created by a Provincial Council;
(i) non-governmental organizations that are substantially funded by the government or any department or other authority established or created by a Provincial Council or by a foreign government or international organization, rendering a service to the public in so far as the information sought relates to the service that is rendered to the public;
(j) higher educational institutions including private universities and professional institutions which are established, recognized or licensed under any written law or funded, wholly or partly, by the State or a public corporation or any statutory body established or created by a statute of a Provincial Council;
(k) private educational institutions including institutions offering vocational or technical education which are established, recognized or 32 Right to Information Act, No. 12 of 2016 licensed under any written law or funded, wholly or partly, by the State or a public corporation or any statutory body established or created by a statute of a Provincial Council;
(l) all courts, tribunals, and institutions created and established for the administration of justice;
are the Institutions considered as public authorities.
Accordingly, subject to the provisions of section 5 of the RTI act, every citizen is entitled to access the information in the possession, trust or control of the aforesaid public authorities.
Section 7 of the act sets out the duties of these public authorities. It emphasizes that the public authorities have a ‘duty’ to maintain their records to proper order, especially to provide the information requested by the public.
In addition, an annual report should be submitted to the Right to Information Commission to assess the proper functioning of the public authorities’ transparency. Accordingly, the number of requests have been made, amount of fees have been collected during the year, amount of appeals have been submitted, the number of times the information has been provided as per the order of the commission and if there are any suggestions made to promote the effectiveness of the existing information retrieval methodology; such suggestions should be included in that report. Public authorities are thus bound to the RTI Commission to be responsible for their transparency.