The Information Commission on Tuesday ordered the police to provide the information sought under the Right to Information Act within the next 20 days. This will protect the people’s right to information on the one hand and will increase people’s confidence with the organisation on the other. We appreciate the order of the Information Commission and demand its speedy implementation.
On 7 June 2021, writer, researcher and rights defender Saad Hammadi appealed to the concerned police official at the police headquarters under the Right to Information Act seeking information regarding the number of cases lodged under the Digital Security Act every year and the number of accused and arrestees in these cases since its enactment.
Later, on 18 July, he appealed to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) for the information. As he did not get any response from the police headquarters, he filed a complaint with the Information Commission on 10 August. Saad Hammadi is Amnesty International's South Asia campaigner currently working at the South Asian office of Amnesty in Sri Lanka.
Regarding this, Saad Hammadi says this verdict has set an example at ensuring people and journalists' right to information and at the same time it has given a clear message to the state agencies at ensuring transparency and accountability. He hopes that the police authority will create no more obstruction in providing this information.
The excuse given by the police for refusing to provide this information sought under the Right to Information Act was not acceptable at all. Information such as the number of cases filed under the Digital Security Act and number of accused and detainees in these cases are by no means threats to the security of the country. It cannot influence the trial either.
We see very often that the law enforcement agencies expose the accused before the media after arresting them and provide details of the case. Even the reports of the law enforcement agencies contain a detailed description of the case including the nature of the offence and details of the defendants.
In such a context, there is no scope to see it from a different perspective if someone wants to know the number of cases filed under a certain act and the number of detainees in these cases. Rather, it will alleviate the confusion among the common people, if the law enforcement agencies provide correct information.
Information that does not involve the security of the country should be disclosed for the sake of rule of law and justice. The persons concerned might remember that the Right to Information Act was enacted to ensure free flow of information and to protect people’s right to information, not for hiding.
After such an order from the Information Commission, we expect none of the organisations or divisions of the government will deprive people of their right to access information. The law will definitely lose its effectiveness if people do not get information.
We are observing with great concern that the right to information that was ensured by the Right to Information Act has been snatched away from us by the Digital Security Act. Therefore, it is essential to repeal all the laws and provisions that conflict with the Right to Information Act to ensure people’s right to information.