Administrative Court: Public authorities should not have the possibility to initiate proceedings against decisions of the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection
The Administrative Court addressed remarks and proposals regarding the Draft Amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance to the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government, confirming the attitude of the group of civil society organisations which stated that the possibility for the authorities to conduct administrative proceedings against the binding, final and enforceable decisions of the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection is not in accordance with the principle of legality.
This provision violates the unity of the legal system because it contains different rules in comparison to those foreseen by the systemic laws, such as the provisions of the Law on General Administrative Procedure and the Law on Administrative Disputes. The adoption of a provision that would allow the authority to initiate an administrative dispute against the Commissioner’s decision would prevent the exercise of the right to free access to information.
A group of organisations composed of Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, CRTA, Law Scanner, Civic Initiatives, Slavko Ćuruvija Foundation, Transparency Serbia, BIRN, Partners Serbia and Open Society Foundation Serbia launched the initiative “Defend the right to information – I don’t want public information to be classified” in order to defend the public’s right to know, i.e. not to let the amendments to the Law prevent citizens from obtaining information on the work of public administration.
More than 80 organisations, media organisations and media have so far joined the initiative. During the public hearing, 1,119 people sent comments regarding the Draft amendments to the Law to the competent Ministry via an online platform.
The Draft that the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government presented to the public and that was the object of a public hearing, contains certain provisions that seriously threaten to endanger the reached level of citizens’ rights to have an insight into the work of state authorities.
The initiative “Defend the right to information – I don’t want public information to be classified” has stressed that the provision which excludes a part of companies (capital societies) from the obligation to disclose information, is very harmful, as these companies dispose with a considerable property. As a matter of fact, the proposal seeks to exclude the public control out of the state sector. Moreover, we missed the opportunity to foresee a more efficient system that would enable the enforcement of the Commissioner’s decisions.