Minister of Justice and Buddha Sasana, Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said there was no legal impediment to adopt the Theravadi Bhikku Kathikawatha (Registration) Bill following the deletion of two or three provisions in the Bill.
The Bill seeks to provide for the formulation and registration of Kathikawath in relation to Nikaya or Chapters of Theravadi bhikkus in Sri Lanka, to provide for every bhikku to act in compliance with the provisions of the Registered Kathikawath of the Nikaya or Chapter which relates to such bhikku, to impose punishment on bhikkus who act in violation of the provisions of any Registered Kathikawath, and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
This Bill was drafted by the previous Government and we had already informed the Supreme Court that there were necessary and relevant amendments to be made and although it has not been decided on as to when the Bill would be re-introduced to the Parliament for the debate and vote, the process of deleting the two or three sections and making the necessary and relevant amendments is already underway following the Supreme Court determination, he added.
“To enact the law, neither a two thirds majority in Parliament nor a referendum would be required once the changes are made,” he remarked.
The Supreme Court recently determined that Sections 2 , 4 , 5 , 11, 12 and 13 of the Theravadi Bhikku Kathikawatha (Registration) Bill contravened Articles 9 (regarding Buddhism), 10 (regarding the freedom of religion), 12 (1) (regarding the right to equality) and 14 (1) (e) (regarding the freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief in worship etc. in private or in public) of the Constitution of 1978, and therefore required a two thirds majority plus approval in a referendum, General Secretary of the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU), MP Udaya Gammanpila, a lawyer representing the petitioners said.
While President’s Counsel Manohara De Silva, also an attorney representing the petitioners, opined that the Government could still do away with the objectionable, most unconstitutional provisions which required a two thirds majority and a referendum and pass the amended Bill into the law of the land, Gammanpila argued that this would not only be difficult as it would drastically alter the content of the Bill but also render it virtually ineffective.
The Minister of course has the options of withdrawing the Bill or getting it passed after amending the certain contentious provisions accordingly, Gammanpila added.