By S.S. Selvanayagam
The Supreme Court fixed for support on 21 May the granting of leave to proceed with the fundamental rights petition challenging the excise notification imposing restrictionson women.
The bench comprised justices Eva Wanasundera, NalinPerera and L.T.B.Dehideniya.
Women’s rights groups and activists are up in arms lamenting that the notification is an infringement of the basic human rights and dignity of women.
The petitioners state that the notification of the Minister of Finance and Mass Media MangalaSamaraweera is to re-impose and revive the purported restriction imposed on the engagement and employment of women in the manufacture, collection, bottling, sale or transport of liquor.
They challenge the restrictionthat no liquor shall be sold or given to a woman within the premises of a tavern, thereby infringing the fundamental rights of women to equal protection and equality guaranteed under Article 12 of the Constitution as well as the right to engage in a lawful occupation, trade or business of their choice.
They state that consequent to the Cabinet decision, the Minister purportedly issued the excise notification.
They assert that the notification amounts to ex-facie and de jure (legally) gender-based discrimination, infringing on the rights of adult women.
They bemoan that the Minister superseded a draconian and archaic excise notification that blatantly demeaned and discriminated against women.
The Women and Media Collective, Centre for Women’s Research, Prof. CamenaGuneratne, Women’s Education and Research CentreDirectressesSulakshana de Mel and 11 others filed the petition.
They cited Minister MangalaSamaraweera, Treasury Secretary Dr. R.H.S.Samaratunga, Commissioner General of Excise K.H.A.Meegasmulle, the attorney general and others as respondents.
President’s Counsel SanjeevaJayawardane appeared for the petitioners.