Statement about progress of petition filed against ‘liquor ban’, by women’s group and 16 individual petitioners

9 July 2018

The Supreme Court today, in an unanimous order, granted Petitioners, Women and Media Collective (WMC), Women’s Education and Research Centre(WERC), and the Centre for Women’s Research (CENWOR), and 16 other individual female petitioners, leave to proceed with their petition challenging the constitutionality of the recent Gazette notification which restricts women’s rights to manufacture, sell or purchase alcohol.

The basis of the Petitioners’ claim was that the Notification (No.04/2018), issued by the Minister of Finance, and published in the Government Gazette Extraordinary No. 2054-42, dated 18.01.2018, pursuant to a cabinet decision of 16.01.2018, restricts the rights of women, by prohibiting women from:

(a) engaging in and/or being employed in the manufacture, collection, bottling, sale and transportation of liquor, and
(b) beingsold or given liquor within the premises of a tavern.

In their Petition, the Petitioners pleaded that the said regulation is ex-facie and de jure gender-based discrimination, infringing and violating the rights of adult women to the Right to Equality before the Law and the Equal Protection of the law, as guaranteed to all persons, by Articles 12(1) and 12(2) of the Constitution.

They also stated that the regulation is tantamount to a violation of the Petitioners’ fundamental rights to engage in a lawful profession, business, trade or vocation, as guaranteed to them by Article 14(1)(g) of the Constitution.
They further stated that it also violates the fundamental bedrock of the Rule of Law, and was severely offensive to the core values of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) on the equal rights of women and men, to which Sri Lanka is party.

The Supreme Court Bench presided by His Lordship the Chief Justice, having heard oral arguments of Counsel and having considered the written submissions filed by the Parties, granted leave to proceed to the Petitioners in a unanimous order on 9th July, 2018.

Mr. SanjeevaJayawardana, President’s Counsel, with Ms. Dilumi De Alwis, Attorney-at-Law, instructed by Messrs. Paul Ratnayake Associates appeared for the Petitioners, while Deputy Solicitor General, VivekaSiriwardene appeared for the Attorney General.