Law for environmental betterment | Daily News

Law for environmental betterment

The Centre for Environmental Law and Policy (CELP) of the University of Colombo is a new-found platform that has achieved the status quo of a significant contributor in the field of environmental protection and conservation through its continues contribution made towards the betterment of the environment.

As an initiative of the University of Colombo, CELP is driven under the guidance of well-renowned environmentalists, activists and academics who are keen on playing an active role in the process of environmental policy research and development together with the aim of collaboration, engagement, and knowledge empowerment to shape an accountable community that upholds the best interests of the environment and eco-systems through the involvement of green activism and conservation.

In a background where recommendations are being made for the introduction of a new Constitution, it is well opportune in time for the community to shift into a bio-centric thinking pattern where the promotion of environment and conservation is reflected through policy discussions. However, compared to other countries on the subject matter of green activism, Sri Lanka falls behind in active participation and involvement of its citizens in addressing ecological concerns, largely due to the lack of legal expertise and awareness on these pivotal matters.

Legal provisions

To fill such void in the arena of legal publications on Environmental law and policies that are often limited and are accessible only for the usage of law practitioners and academics, CELP as another step of its continues input in promoting environmental protection had taken up the challenge of compiling legal provisions on various environmental issues for publication, aimed at making such information efficiently accessible to any interested parties as well as for the general public reference.

Among many other great initiatives carried out by CELP, the recent two publications based upon the compilation of legal provisions and judicial precedents about landmark judgments in the field of relevant thematic extents holds a larger impact on the community, primarily on knowledge sharing and awareness raising as it would greatly benefit activists, environmentalist as well as any citizen of the country to learn, to promote, to understand and to appreciate the law protecting the environment for the benefit of the present community as well as the future.

The first publication of CELP on animal welfare laws and policies is a comprehensive compilation of main statutory instruments that are directed towards the prohibition of animal cruelty and the protection of animal welfare and safety. In comparison to countries that are actively fighting for animal rights and conservation against arbitrary and illegal activities, Sri Lankan community has further room for activism and progression that calls for better involvement to breach the disparities in lack of public interest litigation, public participation, and information circulation on the protection of animal rights and regulations. Thus, the compilation on Animal Welfare by CELP greatly benefits to achieve and facilitate such goal by better knowledge distribution.

The composition of the publication focuses on providing the reader with a better understanding of the legal characteristics and elements that are relevant in ensuring animal welfare and protection.

The first part of the publication provides a well-summarized version of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance, No.13 of 1907 as amended which could be considered as one of the main statutory authorities that govern animal rights against illegal actions and criminal conducts. The compilation provides a clear picture on different types of offences that are punishable, the penalties, illustrated circumstances, as well as powers of the Ministers and the Courts in adjudicating such legal provisions as mentioned under statutory instruments.

It highlights the need for reformation of the existing legal provisions by showcasing the gaps and loopholes in 1907 Ordinance which holds outdated legal stipulations that fails to include certain groups of animals as ‘strays’ that deserves protection as much as any other group of animals. Later, it notes how the penalties for such criminal offences as provided by the ordinance are inadequate to ensure better protection for animals against cruel treatment as the maximum fine declared by the ordinance is the only payment of one hundred rupees, three months of imprisonment or both, which is an insufficient penalty compared to the times when the ordinance was initially presented.

At the latter part of the publication, it moves on to the procedure that was followed and to a discussion on the background of the introduction of the New Animal Bill in the year 2020 where it was submitted for the Cabinet approval. Thus, it provides the reader with an overall view of the actions taken by the relevant stakeholders throughout such a journey since the year 1907.

As final remarks on the compilation, the subsequent contents of the publication revolve around six landmark judgments that are prominent in the legal sphere of protecting animal rights and welfare, where the book has summarized each judgment into a brief record with important elements of the judgements that would provide better access and easy reference at the convenience of the reader.

Following such publication, CELP had issued its second volume under the series of law compilations where the second book was published under the theme based upon Public Nuisance.

The significance of such publication in the field of environmental protection and conservation is well demonstrated by the popular usage of the concept of public nuisance as a traditional approach, where it is relied upon by the legal community to accommodate litigation against hazardous acts committed by offenders.

Such publication marks another milestone in the contribution made by CELP towards the benefit of society. This compilation holds a summarized version of all legal provisions that are dispersed throughout various legislations and statutes that concerns the subject matter of public nuisance. Thus, such would serve as a handbook that would greatly benefit any interested parties to save time when filing actions under the law on public nuisance, to avoid the prescription of time limitations.

Accordingly, the first part of the compilation provides a comprehensive analysis of the key elements that constitute a public nuisance to offer the reader a general understanding of the scope of the compilation. Then it moves towards nine important statutory instruments that apply to the subject matter and provides a briefed version of all provisions of each statute/ordinance that comes under the preview of public nuisances.

Reviewed by Oshini Senadhipathi