The petitioner inherited land that became the State's property without his knowledge. The petitioner made several requests to the Supervisor of the County for title records, surveys, and land tax ledgers held by the County. After the Supervisor withheld certain land surveys and private forests use surveys, petitioner filed a constitutional action against the Supervisor.
The Court ruled that right to information (a “right to know”) is a precondition of freedom of speech and press guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution, and essential to that right is sufficient access to information held, collected, and processed by the government. Further, the public has a claim-right to request disclosure of information held by the government, and the government must comply with such requests. However, access to information can be reasonably restricted by balancing the direct interests of the person requesting information against the potential harm to the public interest. In this case, restriction of access to information was unreasonable because the records had not been classified as confidential and disclosure did not implicate the invasion of another’s privacy, while the petitioner had a direct interest in the information.
While this was the first case recognizing a constitutional right to know, it was followed by others. In the Records Duplication Request case, CC90Hun-Ma133, the Court decided that the Prosecutor’s Office acted unconstitutionally when it denied a former criminal defendant the opportunity to obtain his trial records. Following these constitutional cases, the National Assembly adopted the Official Information Disclosure Act in late 1996.
Summary of the case.