23rd January 2018, Colombo, Sri Lanka: Two Fundamental Rights Petitions were filed challenging the validity of Excise Notification No 4/2018 of the Gazette Extraordinary No. 2054-42 issued by the Minister in charge of the Ministry of Finance and Media on 18th January 2018. The effect of Excise Notification No 4/2018 is to reintroduce:
- The prohibition on women above the age of 18 to manufacture, collect, bottle, sell or transport liquor.
- The prohibition on women above the age of 18 from being employed for manufacturing, collecting, bottling, sale or transport of liquor.
- The prohibition on “giving” liquor to “a woman within the premises of a tavern”.
The two Petitions were filed on the basis of the violation of specific rights guaranteed under the Fundamental Rights Chapter in the Constitution of Sri Lanka. The position of both Petitions is that regardless of whether a woman actually engages in these activities, her constitutional right to make that choice for herself should be respected to the same extent as that of a man.
The first Petition was filed by five women on their own behalf and in the public interest. They are Bhavani Fonseka, Sumika Perera, Anusha Coomaraswamy, Shreen Saroor and Minoli de Zoysa. The five petitioners assert that Excise Notification No 4/2018 is a violation of their rights guaranteed under Article 10 [freedom of thought], Article 12(1) [equal protection of the law], Article 12(2) [nondiscrimination] and Article 14(1)(g) [freedom to engage in a lawful occupation, profession].
View the first petition in full here.
The second petition was filed in the public interest by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and its Executive Director, Dr P. Saravanamuttu. The petition alleges that the prohibition violates the rights guaranteed under Article 10, 12(1) and 12(2) of women above the age of 18 who constitute a significant segment of the People of Sri Lanka.
View the second petition in full here.
Viran Corea with Sarita de Fonseka, Luwie Ganeshathasan , Khyati Wikramanayake and Inshira Faliq appeared for the petitioners.
Update: Leave to proceed was granted in both the cases and is listed for support on 5th of February 2019.