July 09, Colombo: Sri Lanka's Supreme Court granted leave to proceed with the fundamental rights petition filed by a group of women activists requesting the court to declare the gazette issued by Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, barring women from buying liquor or working in establishments that sell liquor illegal.
The petition was filed by eleven women activists and Women and Media Collectives in Colombo against the gazette notification issued by the Minister of Finance Mangala Samaraweera reinstating the ban.
After a lengthy debate on the petition a three member bench headed by Chief Justice Priyasath Depp granted leave to proceed with the petition and issued orders to the 50 respondents including Finance Minister, and Secretary of Finance Ministry to present any objections to the petition.
The lawyer representing the petitioners stated that the decision to revoke the gazette notification allowing women to purchase liquor and working at establishments selling liquor on the advice of the President, was totally unlawful.
The petitioners claimed that the ban violated women's rights and is unconstitutional.
Minister of Finance and Mass Media Mangala Samaraweera on 10th January 2018 announced that he amended the schedule in the Excise Notification no.666 of the Gazette Extraordinary of 1979 to allow females over 18 years to purchase alcohol legally and to allow women to be employed in licensed premises without prior approval from Excise Commissioner.
Finance Minister's move changing the old law banning women from buying alcohol was welcomed by many in Sri Lanka as a positive step towards equal rights for women.
However, the President, Maithripala Sirisena opposed the move and instructed the Finance Ministry to rescind the gazette notification that removed the ban and the cabinet of ministers agreed with the President's decision.
Accordingly, the Finance Minister withdrew the gazette notification issued announcing the lifting on the ban on 18th January and reinstated the ban.
The Apex court will hear the petition on 6th February 2019 and respondents are ordered to make objections, if any, on that say.