The Supreme Court yesterday decided to hear a fundamental rights petition filed by a youth who challenged his arrest over social media posts with the hashtag (#) created to show the growing displeasure towards former President Gotabaya Rajapakse and the government.

The petitioner, Chirantha Amerasinghe, a self-employed software developer, filed this petition, naming IGP Chandana Wickramaratne, CID Director, OIC Social Media Unit of CID, and several others as respondents.

The Supreme Court’s three-judge bench, comprising justices Preethi Padman Surasena, Yasantha Kodagoda, and Kumuduni Wickremasinghe, granted leave to proceed with the petition in terms of Articles 10, 12(1), 13(1), and 14(1) (b) of the constitution. The petition is to be taken up for argument on October 26.

The petitioner said he was arrested and produced before the Colombo Magistrate’s Court by CID on November 18, 2020, for encouraging the public to turn off their televisions whilst addressing the nation and to post on social media with the hashtag #GotaFail. Subsequently, he was released on bail by the Colombo Magistrate’s Court.

The petitioner states that in the modern day, social media and public discussion on social media are an important and effective feedback mechanism for good governance, and that silencing or attempting to dissuade public discussions and debate on matters of government and state policies and actions is counterproductive in a democracy.

The petitioner said he was arrested while exercising his freedom of expression to demonstrate his dissent against the unjustified act of enforced cremation of COVID-19 victims.

Counsel Thishya Weragoda and Dilan Nalaka, instructed by Thamila Perera, appeared for the petitioner. Deputy Solicitor General Lakmali Karunanayake appeared for the Attorney General.





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