The Supreme Court granted leave to proceed in a fundamental rights petition filed by a pastor against the demolition of the premises where he conducted a service every Sunday.
The petitioner Pastor Pokkini Jegatheesan of Matugama cited Matugama Headquarters Inspector Pradeep Prameera, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Ravi Wijewardena, Matugama Senior Inspector Shantha Seneviratne, Urban Development Authority (UDA) officer Wimal Amaratunga, the IGP and the Attorney General as respondents.
The attorney for the petitioner said that the petitioner and his family has conducted religious services at their residence in Matugama since 2008 but he and his family has been threatened and intimidated by some of the villagers many a time to stop this service.
He alleged that even the well used by his family to draw their drinking water from had been contaminated purposely by pouring oil into the well and so he had to incur additional expense to clean the well. He said that several complaints had been made to the 1st respondent but no action had been taken.
The petitioner stated that when he went to the police station to make a complaint, instead of inquiring into his complaint he was asked to stop the services as he had not got permission to conduct them.
He said that the 4th respondent (Mr. Amaratunga) had even sent a letter to him stating that he would demolish the residence if he (Jegatheesan) does not stop the services as he had not got the necessary approval to conduct them.
Manohara de Silva. P.C. Counsel for the UDA said that according to the UDA Act any premises used except for the purpose it has been approved for, should get approval from the relevant authority and therefore it was illegal to conduct a religious service there.
He also said that neither he nor the UDA are against any person conducting religious services but that he was for peace and harmony. He said that he was making his submission purely on the basis of the law.
The Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice Asoka de Silva, Justices Gamini Amaratunge and P.A. Ratnayake granted leave to proceed and directed the Director (Legal) of the Police Department to inform the relevant authorities that this Court had granted leave to proceed.
The case was listed for hearing on June 1.