The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expressed concern regarding a provision in the gazetted Right to Information Bill, concerning the release of information being deemed as being in contempt of court.
Accordingly, Section 5(1) of the Bill, which deals with when the right of access may be denied and a request for access to information shall be refused, in Section 5(1)(j)it is outlined that where the disclosure of such information would be in contempt of court, access to information could be denied.
President of the BASL, President’s Counsel Geoffrey Alagaratnam said the said provision sounded vague, unexplained, and too broad a category which would ultimately result in information being unduly withheld.
He called for an efficient mechanism to be setup in order to implement and enforce the provisions of the Bill once it becomes an Act, adding that the infrastructure for this purpose needed to be put in place.
“. What takes place in court and is presented before court becomes a public record. For contempt of court to take place, the court must be ridiculed or the system of justice must be brought to disrepute. Information officers are very important. A greater awareness must be created among the public about the right to information,” he observed.