By S.S. Selvanayagam
The Supreme Court directed the National Medicines Regulatory Authority and the relevant stakeholders to effectively take part in the consultation process and report to court in respect of the language rights on labelling medicines.
The Bench comprising Justices Buwenaka Aluvihara, Nalin Perera and Prasanna S. Jayawardane fixed the rights petition to be taken on 3 February.
Petitioner Lionel Guruge claims to be a Senior Researcher to Centre for Policy Alternatives in his fundamental rights petition seeking to implement language rights on labelling medicines cited National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA), Consumer Affairs Authority(CAA), Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senarathne, Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen, Official Languages Commission Chairman Prof. Daya Edirisinghe, Minister of National Co-Existence, Dialogue and Official Languages Mano Ganesan and the Attorney General as Respondents.
M.A. Sumanthiran with Sarita Fonseka instructed by DN Associates appeared for the Petitioner. Deputy Solicitor General Nerin Pulle appeared for the State and the Attorney General.
Petitioner is seeking the Court to direct the NMRA and other Respondents to ensure all labels and/or packaging of medicines containing information pertaining to the use including indications and/or precautions and/or contraindication of medicines, medical devices and borderline products are in Sinhala and Tamil.
Petitioner states that most or all medicines, medical devices and borderline products contain information as to the usage only in English language whereas to a vast majority of consumers who are Sinhala and Tamil persons such information in English is wholly unintelligible.
He brings to the cognisance that as per the Article 18 and 19 of the Constitution, both Sinhala and Tamil are the official and national languages of Sri Lanka and English is the link language.
He laments the labelling and packaging of medicinal drugs both prescription and over the counter among others, in only the link language, effectively impugns the use of such medicines and has the potential to cause serious risk, harm and injury to most individuals who are not conversant with same.