WHAT IS RTI?

You now have a fundamental right to access information held by Public Authorities (mainly government). The Right to Information Act No. 12 of 2016 sets out the details of this right.

Any material recorded in any form including records, documents, memos, emails, opinions, advice, press releases, circulars, orders, log books, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, correspondence, memorandum, draft legislation, book, plan, map, drawing, diagram, pictorial or graphic work, photograph, film, microfilm, sound recording, video tape, machine readable record, computer records and other documentary material, regardless of its physical form or character and any copy of them.

(CLICK HERE TO READ RTI ACT SEC:43)

An officer in every public authority responsible for giving information to the public.

If the information officer refuses to give information, a citizen can appeal to the designated officer.

An appeal from the designated officer goes to the RTI Commission.

You can ask about why certain people get benefits, what criteria is used to give people jobs, what marks you got at a job interview, why your child didn’t get into school, internal regulations of departments, etc.

(CLICK HERE TO READ RTI ACT SEC:43)
  • It is important to ask, even if the request may be denied.
  • They can ONLY refuse information on specific grounds given in Section 5(1) of the Act, as follows:
  • Any personal information which is not related to public interest, which may undermine national security and national relations with any states, cause prejudice to the economy of Sri Lanka, information of commercial confidence, any personal medical records, confidential information of a fiduciary relationship, information that may cause prejudice to criminal cases or national security, third party information, information that may constitute  contempt of court or cause prejudice to judicial independence, parliamentary privileges or privileges of a Provincial Council under law, and information cause harm to the integrity of examinations, certain information relating to an election and cabinet memoranda where decisions have not been taken are the different types of information that will not be available to the public.
  • If there is a greater public interest in releasing any information, rather than concealing it, such information must be released.
(CLICK HERE TO READ RTI ACT SEC:5(1))
  • As far back as you like, provided the information is available.
  • If the information is in existence when the Act comes into operation, they should maintain it for 10 years after that.
  • If it’s new information, 12 years after it is created
(CLICK HERE TO READ RTI ACT SEC:7(3))
  • If a citizen has requested information in a way not compliant with the Act, or
  • Is not able to make the request in writing, for some reason,

the Information Officer must assist the citizen, free of charge.

(CLICK HERE TO READ RTI ACT SEC:23(3))

Any information supplied by a third party to the public authority and such information has been treated as confidential at the time the information was supplied.

(CLICK HERE TO READ RTI ACT SEC:29(1))

WHO CAN I REQUEST INFORMATION FROM?

The Information Officer in every Public Authority.

(CLICK HERE TO READ RTI ACT SEC:25)

Any body, office or institution or department or authority established under the constitution or any written law and any private organization or authority operating under the license provided by the government or providing public function or service.   This includes:

o      Ministries

o      Government Departments

o      Public corporations

o      Local Authorities

o      Higher educational institutions that are publicly funded

o      Private educational institutions recognized under law, or are publicly funded to some extent

(CLICK HERE TO READ RTI ACT SEC:43)

Yes. Every Public Authority has at least one Information Officer (until their appointment within 3 months from the Act being passed, the chief or the head of that authority will act as the information officer)

(CLICK HERE TO READ RTI ACT SEC:23(1)(a))

Yes, from the schools run by government or licensed by government.

(CLICK HERE TO READ RTI ACT SEC:43 (k))

Yes, if it is not excepted information.

No, except if the State has ownership or if a company is performing a public function or service.

Yes. It doesn’t matter whether they are incorporated or unincorporated, if at least ¾ of its members are citizens.

PROCESS

No. You just need to give the details of the information and the form (letter,CD, etc.) or language, in which you need it in writing (written or electronic).

(CLICK HERE TO READ RTI ACT SEC:25(5)(b))

A request has to be made in writing (electronic means is also accepted) and it is not necessary to give the reason or show that the information is related to you personally.

(CLICK HERE TO READ RTI ACT SEC:24(1))
  • If possible the information officer will sometimes immediately provide the information (if available).
  • If not, they must provide a decision within 14 working days to give or refuse the information. Within 14 days (not working days) from that decision they should provide the information.
  • The 14 days to access the information may be extended to not more than another 21 days (not working days) where the 14 days are insufficient to access the information due to the large number of records or the information being in a different location.
  • If it relates to the life and personal liberty of a citizen, then information should be provided within 48 hours of receiving the request.
(CLICK HERE TO READ RTI ACT SEC:24(4)) (CLICK HERE TO READ RTI ACT SEC:25(1) (2))

Yes, you can. You have a fundamental right of access to information. So you can go directly to the Supreme Court if you feel your right has been infringed or you see imminent infringement.

Yes, the Right to Information Commission will decide the fee, but it may specify the circumstances where information may be provided without payment of fee.

(We will update this information as it becomes available)

(CLICK HERE TO READ RTI ACT SEC:25(1)) (CLICK HERE TO READ RTI ACT SEC:14(e)) (CLICK HERE TO READ RTI ACT SEC:25(4))

Once you have received an acknowledgement of your request in writing, you can use that to follow up.

(CLICK HERE TO READ RTI ACT SEC:24(3))

You can ask that it should be certified. Providing incorrect information is an offence under S. 39(1)(a). If you feel the information is incorrect, you can complain to the Commission and ask for a prosecution.

(CLICK HERE TO READ RTI ACT SEC:27(3)(b))

Only if the request relates to the life and personal liberty of a person. Then you can get it within 48 hours.

(CLICK HERE TO READ RTI ACT SEC:24(5) (c))

Yes.

If the Information Officer or Designated Officer deliberately refuses to give the information or fails to do their mandated duties provided by this Act, citizens can complain to the Right to Information Commission and they will direct the relevant disciplinary authority to take action. The disciplinary authority has to report back to the Commission in 1 month.  For more serious offences, such as destroying information or giving incorrect information, the Commission can file action in the Magistrate’s Courts.

(CLICK HERE TO READ RTI ACT SEC:38,39)

APPEALS

  • You can make an appeal to the Designated Officer within 14 days of the refusal.
  • If the applicant fails to appeal within fourteen days for reasons beyond their control, the Designated Officer will accept the application where reasonable cause is given for the delay.
  • The Designated Officer has to give a decision within 3 weeks.
  • If they fail to give a decision or refuse, you can appeal within 2 months to the Right to Information Commission.
  • Commission decision within 30 days – Can affirm, vary or reverse the decision of the Designated Officer or the Information Officer.
  • Can appeal to the Court of Appeal within 1 month of the decision of the Commission.
(CLICK HERE TO READ RTI ACT SEC:31)

PENALTIES

There is no fine. But the Right to Information Commission can ensure that disciplinary action should be taken against an Information Officer or a Designated Officer, or can prosecute them in a Magistrate’s Court. You can complain to the Commission calling for these.

  • Disciplinary Action:
    • If they refuse to accept your request
    • They don’t give reasons for refusing your request
    • Charge you extra fees
    • They fail to process your request
  • Offences:
  • They give you incorrect, incomplete or inaccurate information
  • They destroy, invalidate, alter or conceal information
  • They fail to appear before the Right to Information Commission
  • They appear before the Right to Information Commission, but refuse to be examined or provide information, etc
  • They don’t give effect to a decision of the Right to Information Commission
  • Obstructs the work of the Commission
(CLICK HERE TO READ RTI ACT SEC:38,39)

PRIVACY & PUBLISHING

Only citizens can make requests, so anonymous requests will not be possible.

Yes, there is no barrier to publishing information obtained.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

You can always ask. The Information Officer will decide whether it’s restricted information under s. 5 (1)(b)(i).

(CLICK HERE TO READ RTI ACT SEC:5(1)(b)(1) )

No. The right only belongs to a citizen.

No. There is no age limit. Any citizen can make a request.