Sri Lanka: The Supreme Court yesterday directed the petitioners to send notices on the Vice Chancellor of the Jaffna University and several others to appear in court on December 5 regarding a Fundamental Rights petition filed by five students for allegedly penalizing them for bringing a Budu Kutiya to the Vavuniya Campus.
Five students including four Sinhala Buddhists and a Tamil Hindu student attached to the Faculty of Business Studies in Vavuniya Campus of the Jaffna University filed this petition complaining that the university administration is continuously harassing, victimizing and penalizing them for their suspected involvement in bringing the Budu Kutiya (Wooden structure for the placement of a Buddha statue) to the Vavuniya Campus by keeping them indefinitely out of bounds of the Vavuniya Campus.
The Supreme Court Bench comprised Justice Sisira de Abrew, Justice Priyantha Jayawardena and Justice Nalin Perera.
The petitioners further alleged that the University administration prevented them from pursuing their university education and sitting for the examination, subjecting them to excessive punishment informally not warranted by disciplinary procedure, by not granting any hearing to their appeals and by not releasing the Board of Inquiry Report and by not informing them of the decision of the Board of Inquiry.
The petitioners cited Vice Chancellor of the Jaffna University Prof. Ratnam Vigneswaran, Dr. T. Mangaleswaran, P. Priyadarshan and six others including the Minister of Higher Education as respondents.
The petitioners stated that as the Vesak Poya was falling on April 29, 2018, the students had planned to bring the Buddha statue and later placed it in the Budu Kutiya and celebrated the Vesak Festival. They allege that the third respondent, a Sub Warden came there and asked the students to take it out of the campus premises.
The petitioners stated that freedom of thought, conscience and religion is the most important fundamental right of every person. They further alleged that the respondents have infringed the Fundamental Rights of the petitioners to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 14(1)(a) of the Constitution when they were penalised for expressing their views asserting their Fundamental Rights to conduct their religious observances within the campus premises.
The petition was filed through Senior Counsel Kalyananda Thiranagama and Counsel Nilmal Wickremasinghe.