Sala IV issues split decision in Registro document case

The Sala IV constitutional court reaffirmed a citizen’s right to governmental materials, but it also affirmed the right of the Registro Nacional to charge for some services.

That was the outcome of the appeal brought by the lawyer’s professional organization against the Registro, which has instituted an online system to distribute official documents.

When the appeal was filed, the Registro shut down its online service rather than give away documents for free.

That was Aug. 1. Until then anyone with a credit card could purchase certifications, personarias that show who has the power to contract for a company, and other documents. Before the electronic system was set up early last year, the Registro would dispense these documents on paper for a fee or someone could pay a notary to draw up the document.

Notaries and other lawyers had access to a Registro system that contained the data needed to prepare such documents. The Colegio de Abogados, the lawyer’s professional group, filed the appeal when the Registro asked everyone to pay.

The Sala IV did not tell the Registro to shut down the system. But it did say that the Registro could not charge. Registro officials decided to freeze the system even though frequent users had money on deposit.

The result of that decision created longer lines at the Registro and required persons seeking documentation to make a personal trip or pay a lawyer.  The decision hit hardest those living outside the metro area or away from the regional offices of the Registro.

In a significant statement as part of the decision, the constitutional court magistrates said this:

“A new right or right of the fourth generation exists which consists in the ability of citizens to access by electronic means the archives, registries and data bases in the power of public entities that ought to be developed in the framework of the information society and the growth of new technologies of information and communication.”

The decision said that information that was free in the past should continue that way. But the magistrates noted that the law that set up the Registro specified that charges could be made for some services.

As of Sunday night, the Registro had not restarted the online system that is the heart of its digital services. The decision that was made Friday was released the same day in a summary by the Poder Judicial. The full decision still is not available.

A.M. Costa Rica explained the digital system in detail last May HERE!

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