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Monday, March 1, 2021

Sub judice is a legal safeguard & it should not be used to stifle the citizen’s right to freedom of expression – Sri Lanka Supreme Court

In a land mark judgment given today, in the case of U. N. S. P. Kurukulasuriya and another  Vs Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation and others Sri Lanka Supreme Court emphasised   that “Sub judice is a legal safeguard and media institutions should not be allowed to use a safeguard as a cloak to stifle the citizen’s right to freedom of expression.”

it further says that:

Sub judice is a legal safeguard and media institutions should not be allowed to use a safeguard as a cloak to stifle the citizen’s right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution. Sub judice is not meant for justifying autocratic and stifling conduct relating to freedom of expression. These safeguards are for the purpose of creating an equal marketplace of ideas with minimal risk of polarization.

Preventing views that are either disagreeable or disadvantageous to the broadcaster or the agenda that they seek to further, from reaching the public, impinges on the citizen’s entitlement to exercise freedom of expression. Although the Supreme Court’s power to strike down acts or omissions that may lead to the infringement of fundamental rights is expressly with regard to executive or administrative action, the courts as an organ of government is mandated by Article 4(d) of the Constitution to respect, secure and advance fundamental rights declared and recognized by the Constitution.

Therefore, I have no hesitation in observing that it is not desirable for even a semi-private body to be allowed to make inroads into fundamental rights, in the absence of express prohibitions. As Shakespeare put it, “We must not make a scarecrow of the law, setting it up to fear the birds of prey, and let it keep one shape till custom make it their perch and not their terror.” (Measure for Measure (1604) Act 2, Scene 1.)

While senior lawyer J. C. Weliamuna, PC with Pasindu Silva appeard  for Petitioner,
Geoffrey Alagaratnam, PC with Lasantha Gurusinghe for appeared for the 1st Respondent.

Read the full judgement as a PDF: scfr-556-08-557-08

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