Court will not prohibit peaceful protests – Magistrate

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Colombo Additional Magistrate Harshana Kekunawela yesterday (26) said, the Court will not issue orders to prevent the conduct of any peaceful protest or demonstration that are not an impediment to civilians. He added, the Police have been entrusted with necessary powers, to forestall all types of protests and demonstrations which hinder the GCE Ordinary Level students and inconvenience civilian life.

The Additional Magistrate made these remarks, in response to a request made by Cinnamon Gardens Police, who sought an order, preventing the staging of any protests or similar events near the residence of PM Ranil Wickremesinghe,in the Cinnamon Gardens Police Division at 5th Lane in Cambridge Place and the nearby schools, whilst inconveniencing students and the public.

Senior Assistant Solicitor General Priyantha Nawana, appearing for the Police, told the Court, that they had received information that a group had planned to set up tents opposite the Prime Minister’s residence and engage in a protest demonstration in the coming days.

He explained that as per the Articles of the Constitution, though freedom of speech has been guaranteed for citizens here and they could engage in peaceful protests, it cannot always be utilised, to hinder the day-to-day life of civilians.

The Senior Assistant Solicitor General mentioned that if the conducting of such a protest could turn into be an unlawful assembly, the Police could always use minimum force, to quell such an incident.

But, he observed that if an unlawful assembly were to take place, it could seriously impact students currently sitting for the GCE Ordinary Level exam in schools, situated in the said area.

Nawana then prayed the Court to issue an order to forestall such an occurrence, as per Provisions contained in Section 98 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

By Hansi Nanayakkara