Court instructs AG to withdraw case against Buddha Statue

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 19 July 2005, 10:11 GMT]
On the instrustion of Supreme Court Justice Sarath N Silva, Attorney General (AG) withdrew the case filed by him in the Trincomalee District Court last month seeking a declaration that the Buddha statue which was erected in the Trincomalee bus stand vicinity is illegal. Consequently Venerable Dehiowitta Piyatissa Thera, chief priest of the Chinabay Sri Bodhirajamaha Vihare withdrew the Fundamental Rights petition he filed against the AG. The AG also agreed to withdraw the letter instructing the Urban Development Authority (UDA) to take steps to remove the Buddha statue, legal sources said.

The AG did so on the instruction of the Chief Justice when the FR petition came before the bench comprised the three Justices including Mr.Nihal Jayasinghe and Mr.Nimal Gamini Amarathunge, legal sources said.

Counsel Mr.S.L.Gunasekara who appeared for the petitioner argued there are several unauthorized structures of statues and temples of other faiths in Trincomalee. The AG has filed action in the Trincomalee District Court only for the removal of the Buddha statue erected in the bus stand premises. Hence this violates the fundamental rights of the petitioner, legal sources said.

Mr.C.R.De Silva, Solicitor General appeared for the Attorney General submitted to court that the government has filed the case to reduce tension in the town following the erection of Buddha statue. He further submitted to court that the AG has also taken steps to remove other unauthorized religious structures in the Trincomalee, legal sources said.

However the Chief Justice instructed the AG to withdraw the case filed by him in the Trincomalee District Court as he has no authority to interfere in civil matters and to issue instruction to government agencies, legal sources said.

Thereafter the petitioner withdrew his FR petition, legal sources said.

The Prelate in his petition alleged that the AG had directed the UDA to take steps under Section 28 of the UDA Act to remove the Buddha statue. The AG had referred the statue as the bone of contention in the Trincomalee district.

The petitioner further stated the AG and his department had instituted a case in the Trincomalee District Court seeking the declaration that the statue was an illegal structure in order to have the statue removed on that basis.

The petitioner further said although there were around 17 illegally erected religious statues on State lands in Trincomalee out of which seven were Hindu Kovil, six churches or Christian statues, AG had directed UDA to remove only the Buddha statue.

The petitioner alleged the selective and discriminatory conduct was in violation of the Article 12 (1) and (2) of the Constitution. The removal of the statue would preach peace and cause irreparable loss and damage to the Buddhists in the area. The petitioner sought two interim reliefs: - A stay order preventing the removal of the statue by the UDA and to stay the proceedings in the Trincomalee District Court, legal sources said.


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