Saliya Pieris, PC with R.D. de Silva for the Petitioners instructed by Ms. G.S. Thavarasa.
Ms. Varunika Hettige, DSG for the Respondents.
FR Application allowed.
S.C.F.R. No. 241/14
The two petitioners (both Jehovah’s Witnesses) entered a woman’s house as part of their missionary work in Kekirawa and disseminated religious material. Thereafter, the petitioners were accused of attempting to forcefully convert persons by Buddhist monks and other villagers. The petitioners were taken to the Kekirawa Police Station and berated by the two Buddhist monks and the 1st respondent – the OIC of the police station. They were arrested on suspicion of criminal intimidation and criminal trespass. The petitioners were kept in custody overnight. Following the conclusion of investigations, no case was led against the petitioners.
FoRB violation – Manifestation: worship, observance, practice, teaching; Discrimination
(1) The arrest of the petitioners on 01st March 2014 by the 1st respondent, was unlawful and that the 1st respondent has violated the petitioners‟ fundamental rights guaranteed by Article 13(1) of the Constitution.
(2) The Court held that 1st respondent and officers acting under his directions and with his authority have acted in a manner which is manifestly unreasonable, arbitrary and unlawful. It further held that the acts and omissions of the 1st respondent have denied the petitioners their fundamental right, guaranteed by Article 12(1), to the equal protection of the Law. Accordingly, the Court held that 1st respondent has violated the petitioners’ fundamental rights guaranteed by Article 12(1).
(3) The Court held that the discussion the petitioners were having cannot be properly regarded as being an instance of petitioners manifesting their religion “in worship, observance, practice and teaching;”, within the meaning of and as contemplated by Article 14(1)(e) of the Constitution. Consequently, the prevention of the continuation of that discussion by the 1st respondent and police officers acting on his directions and with his authority, does not constitute a violation of the petitioners’ fundamental rights guaranteed by Article 14(1)(e) of the Constitution.
(4) The Court held that citizens of this country do not possess a constitutionally protected freedom to ‘propagate’ their religion or beliefs. In S.C. Determination No. 2/2001 and S.C. Determination No.19/2003, this Court has adverted to the fact that there is no constitutionality protected right to propagate religion or beliefs.