24 November, 2020
The right to receive information on the activities of state and local government institutions is one of the tools through which the public can ascertain how the institutions perform the duties entrusted to them. The public may ascertain whether the work of the institution is efficient and fair, namely, aimed at protecting the common interest of society. The case law of the Senate shows that the right to receive information is not always applied in accordance with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Law.
The published summary of case law includes the most significant decisions of the Senate in cases of freedom of information during the period of nine years – from 2010 to 2019. The summary includes findings from more than 200 rulings, including individual rulings of the Constitutional Court, the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Veronika Krumina, Chair of the Department of Administrative Cases of the Senate, appraises that the most complicated cases are usually cases concerning the right to receive restricted access information. In resolving a dispute over the right of access to restricted information, a distinction must normally be made between two competing interests, namely the right to information on the one hand and the protection of a person's right to privacy on the other. “It is necessary to assess in each individual case which of the interests have to be more protected. Consequently, it is not possible to say that certain types of information must always be disclosed or – undisclosed. It depends on which interest has to be more protected in the specific case,” points out the Chair of the Department. In assessing which interest has to be protected more, various aspects are taken into account, “for example, whether information is required to satisfy mere curiosity, or to see connections and detect, for example, wasteful spending of budget. It should also be taken into account that a request for restricted access information must be substantiated, including the planned use of the information.”
The summary of case law is designed as a commentary on the provisions of the Freedom of Information Law. The findings expressed in the rulings of the Senate are arranged according to the relevant sections of the Freedom of Information Law, namely, the text of the legal provision and the findings of the court expressed in connection with its interpretation and application are indicated. Issues such as access to restricted information, determination of the classification of information, procedure for requesting information and assessment of a person's request, protection of information, as well as control of the institution's decision and actions in court are addressed in particular.
The summary was prepared by Aleksandrs Potaicuks, Legal Research Counsel to the Division of Case-law and Research of the Supreme Court.