Justice and Legal Reforms Minister Milinda Moragoda will hand over the latest draft of the proposed Right to Information Bill to the government next week, a Ministry official said.
The draft bill which was scheduled to be handed over a fortnight back was withheld due to concerns expressed by stakeholders. "Most of the differences have been ironed out, though the Sri Lanka Press Institute and Editors Guild still have some reservations. The outstanding issues could be gone into at a later stage,” an official said.
He said the proposed law, initially based on the draft 2004 Freedom of Information Bill but now it had been improved on the lines of the 2005 Indian Right to Information Act.
The proposed law is aimed at granting every citizen "a right of access to official information which is in the possession, custody or control of a public authority".
A public authority is defined as a ministry, government department, public corporation, a private company where the state has a majority shareholding, local authorities etc., but excludes the cabinet etc.,
The law however exempts access to information relating to the private medical records of individuals, trade secrets that would harm the commercial interests of persons, where the disclosure can cause prejudice to the prevention of crime and law enforcement, information relating to examinations conducted by the Department of Examinations and the like.
Under the proposed law, a Right to Information Commission will be created to monitor the implementation of the law, and Public Information Officers appointed to each of these 'public authorities' to provide the required information to the general public.
The Right to Information Law has been hailed in countries where it exists as helping ordinary citizens to access information that concern them.
It has also helped in good governance, the official said. Media groups in Sri Lanka have been in the forefront of the agitation for this law on behalf of the citizens. In a recent appeal to President Mahinda Rajapaksa and other political party leaders, they have pointed out that over 120 countries worldwide have enacted this law, and that in South Asia India, Pakistan and Bagladesh have enacted right to information law.