SC grants leave to proceed with petitions | Daily News
Challenging govt.'s decision to re-impose liquor ban on women:

SC grants leave to proceed with petitions

The Supreme Court yesterday granted leave to proceed with four Fundamental Rights petitions filed by several social activists including popular actress Samanalee Fonseka.

They sought an interim order to suspend the re-imposing of the liquor ban on women by the gazette notification dated January 18, 2018.

The Supreme Court Three-Judge-Bench comprising Justice Buwaneka Aluvihare, Justice Prasanna Jayawardena and Justice Vijith Malalgoda fixed the matters for argument for February 6 next year.

Leave to proceed was granted under Article 12(1), 12(2), 14(1) (g) of the Constitution.

The petitioners had also sought to declare that the Ministry of Finance or the State are not entitled in law to revoke the Excise Notification in a manner which prevents females from lawfully being employed at a place of production and sale of liquor.

The petitioners cited Minister of Finance and Mass Media Mangala Samaraweera, Ministry Secretary Dr. R. H. S Samaratunga and Attorney General as respondents.

The petitioners state that by Excise Notification No.02/2018 dated January 10, 2018, the Minister of Finance has inter alia revised the Excise Notification No. 666 by inter alia repealing paragraphs 5(v) and 11(c) of the said Excise Notification No. 666.

The petitioners said Paragraph 11(c) indicates - “Persons to whom liquor is not to be sold or given - No liquor shall be sold or given….. (c) to a woman within the premises of a tavern”…

The petitioners state that this prohibition was a draconian measure that was arbitrary, irrational, unreasonable and discriminatory to female citizens of the Republic.

The petitioners state they were reliably informed at a media briefing that a member of the Cabinet of Ministers, Mahinda Samarasinghe has declared at a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers ostensibly held on January 16, 2016 that the Cabinet of Ministers has purportedly decided to “revoke the recent gazette allowing women to purchase alcohol” which the petitioners verily believe refers to the said Excise Notification.

The petitioners state that the above circumstances give rise to a reasonable apprehension regarding an imminent infringement of the petitioners’ right to equality and equal protection of the law guaranteed to them by Article 12 (1) of the Constitution in as much as-

(a) Any revocation of the said Excise Notification would be unreasonable.

(b) Any such measure would deprive the members of the female gender who have attained the requisite age specified by Law from being lawfully employed at places of production and sale of liquor.

(c) Any such measure would deprive the members of the female gender who has attained the requisite age specified by Law from lawfully purchasing liquor which is a legal product that can only be manufactured, distributed and sold with the express regulation and control of the State.

(d) An imposition of a prohibition applicable to members of only one gender would tantamount to an unequal treatment of the members of such gender.

The petitioners state that the above circumstances give rise to a reasonable apprehension regarding an imminent infringement of the petitioners’ right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of their sex guaranteed to them by Article 12(2) of the Constitution.

Counsel Viran Corea with Thisya Weragoda, Iresh Seneviratne and Thamali Dinushi Perera appeared for the petitioners.

Additional Solicitor General Viraj Dayaratne appeared for the Attorney General.


 

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