Citing imminent arbitrary arrest following monk’s complaint to CID: Atheist/rationalist lodges complaint with HRCSL

By Ruwan Laknath Jayakody | Published: 2:00 AM Jun 19 2020

By Ruwan Laknath Jayakody

Self-proclaimed atheist and rationalist Indika Rathnayaka who is a social media based online campaigner against religious myths and superstitions has lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) citing the imminent infringement of his Fundamental Rights (FR), specifically imminent arbitrary arrest and detention.

Rathnayaka who is professionally a health worker attached to the State health service lodged this complaint on 10 June.  His complaint was prompted by Executive Director of the Buddhist Information Centre (BIC) organisation, Ven. Angulugalle Siri Jinananda Thera lodging a complaint with the Criminal Investigation Department on 8 June. 

The monk had claimed that Rathnayaka was, through Facebook posts, disseminating mythical ideas about Buddha and Buddhism. The monk’s complaint alleges that Rathnayaka’s actions have caused unrest among Buddhists and was misleading the younger generation. 

Speaking to Ceylon Today, Rathnayaka said that it was his claim that Buddhism originated from Jainism concerning which he had furnished evidence to back up his claim, which had raised the ire of the complainant.

The monk has requested a probe, followed by Rathnayaka’s arrest and production before a Court on charges framed under Section 291B of the Penal Code (deals with committing the offence of the deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of persons by words written, insults or attempts to insult the religion or religious beliefs of that class) and Section 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Act, No. 56 of 2007 {Section 3(1) of which deals with committing the offence of propagating or advocating religious hatred that constituted an incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence}. 

If found guilty of attempting to commit the offence under Section 3(1), the convict is liable to face a maximum term of rigourous imprisonment of 10 years  and under this Act, bail can only be granted by a High Court (HC) or a Court above the HC level and that too under exceptional circumstances, the latter which remains undefined in the context of the Act, thus allowing for wide judicial discretion. Conviction under Section 291B carries a maximum term of imprisonment of two years and/or a fine.

In addition to the imminent infringement of Article 13(1) of the Constitution on freedom from arbitrary arrest and Article 13(2) on freedom from arbitrary detention, Rathnayaka in his complaint to the HRCSL seeking the latter’s intervention, also cited the grave breach of his democratic rights and violation of his FR guaranteed under Articles 10 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion), 12(1) on the right to equality and equal protection of the law, 12(2) on freedom from discrimination on the basis of religion and political opinion, 14(1)(a) on the freedom of speech and expression including publication, 14(1)(c) on the freedom of association, 14(1)(e) on the freedom of manifesting one's religion or belief in teaching, and 14(1)(f) on the freedom to enjoy and promote one's own culture.

Rathnayaka will also be filing a FR petition with the Supreme Court in this regard. 

In a communication to Ceylon Today, Attorney-at-Law Sanjaya Wilson Jayasekera who represents Rathnayaka, observed, “Any attempt by the Government through the Police to act upon the said false and hateful complaint of the BIC would be a further attack on the right to freedom of expression, speech and publication of the working people. Rathnayaka has not violated any provisions of the law. On the contrary, the BIC's complaint instigates malicious prosecution”.

Jinananda Thera was not available for comment.

By Ruwan Laknath Jayakody | Published: 2:00 AM Jun 19 2020

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