The Right to Information Commission of Sri Lanka (RTIC) has ruled that the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) must release information on inquiries into complaints against attorneys-at-law.
The RTIC rejected the BASL’s argument that the information was confidential, stating that it is important for the public to know how the BASL is handling complaints against its members.
The RTIC also ruled that the BASL is a public body under the Right to Information Act, even though it is a voluntary organization.
This is because the BASL receives direct or indirect “material support” from international organizations.
The RTIC has given the BASL until September 29, 2023 to release the information. If the BASL fails to comply, the RTIC will take legal action.
The ruling is a victory for transparency and accountability. It sends a message that even powerful organizations like the BASL are not above the law. It also ensures that the public has access to information about how the BASL is handling complaints against its members.
Complaints against lawers :
The information requested by the citizen, Kamal Vithanage, includes the action taken by the BASL on several complaints filed by him, as well as statistical data regarding complaints/petitions received by the BASL against attorneys-at-law during 2011-2020.
The BASL argued that the information was confidential because it could be used to identify complainants and witnesses. However, the RTIC rejected this argument, stating that the public interest in disclosure outweighs the privacy interests of the individuals involved.
The RTIC also noted that the BASL is a self-regulatory body for attorneys-at-law. As such, it is important for the public to be able to monitor how the BASL is handling complaints against its members.
The ruling of the RTIC is a significant step forward for transparency and accountability in Sri Lanka. It is a reminder that even powerful organizations are not above the law, and that the public has a right to know how they are operating.