Magistrate Dismisses Police Request to Issue Injunction
By Hansi Nanayakkara
Colombo Chief Magistrate Buddhika Sri Ragala yesterday (2) informed Cinnamon Gardens Police that as the Constitution has granted freedom to engage in protests, demonstrations and express dissent or views, any effort to suppress that right using the COVID-19 pandemic as a ruse could bring the country and the Government into disrepute in the eyes of the public.
The Chief Magistrate made this remark having dismissed a request made to him by Police urging him to issue an injunction order to prevent the staging of a protest opposite the University Grants Commission (UGC) yesterday (2) by the Janathawadi Buddhi Mandapaya against the General Sir John Kotelawela National Defence University Bill (KNDU).
Cinnamon Gardens Police making submissions before Chief Magistrate Ragala stated that they had received information that the protest headed by Prof. J. N. Ananda Jayawickrema had planned to hold a demonstration opposite the UGC premises on 2 August against the KNDU Bill mooted by the Government.
Hence, the Police requested Court to issue an order to prevent the demonstration from going ahead as it flouted health regulations to prevent an upsurge of the COVID-19 pandemic. Accordingly, the Court stated that if any person or persons violated health guidelines put out by the DH Health Services to prevent the spread of COVID-19, then the Police have the right to arrest such persons and prosecute them.
But he insisted that the pandemic should not be used as a ruse to suppress the rights of the public to engage in peaceful protests and express dissent as it has been enshrined in the Constitution.