Court appeals




Jordan Lazov vs. Ministry of Environment and Water

On 20 March 2001, Jordan Stamenov Lazov served an application in writing to the Ministry of Environment and water to grant access to copies of statements of findings and penalty statements issued in the course of administrative penalty procedures against a municipal company in Dupnitsa. Other documents were also requested.

On 28 March 2001, in the decision for refusal to grant access to information, which was given in writing, the Minister stated that the requested documents contained personal data of the authors of those statements and the witnesses.
The refusal was appealed before the Supreme Administrative Court.

Arguments of the Parties:
The arguments were that: (i) the requested information did not contain any personal data within the meaning of the law; and (ii) even if it contained such data, the Ministry had to provide partial access to information. The requested information was public within the meaning of Art. 2, para 1 of APIA. It was included in acts issued by government institutions and therefore it was public by definition, as is seen in the provisions of Art. 10 of APIA. Besides, administrative penalties are public activities and they are invariably related to disclosure with a view of one of the major objectives of administrative penalties, i.e. general prevention (Art. 12 of AVPA). Besides, it is a fact that two parliamentary questions were raised in connection with the activities envisaged in the acts, which Mr. Lazov requested access to in the form of copies.

Therefore the assertions in the reasons of the appealed decision that the acts contained personal data could be true only partially. The decision itself made explicit reference to those documents which (in the opinion of the Minister) constituted personal data. Hence, he did not dispute the fact that the other information contained in those acts was public. APIA provides for the right of access to public information rather than documents. Hence, with a view to the provisions of Art. 7 of APIA, Mr. Lazov had to be granted access to copies of the acts upon deletion of personal data therein.

Moreover, the claims that some information constituted personal data were untrue. Witnesses were identified only in the statements of findings and the penalty statements and not in the other documents, copies of which had been requested. It is an absurdity to claim that the names of persons acting as competent authority and signing documents are protected against disclosure.

Issue of Interest:
Personal data and partial access

The Ministry of Environment and Water failed to fulfil its obligations provided by law. The case under Art. 7 of APIA was given a wrong assessment.

English Version • Last Update: 25.01.2002• © 1999 Copyright by Interia & AIP