Supreme Court upholds right to sing National Anthem in Tamil

Nov 18, 2016 (LBO) – A fundamental rights case challenging the legality of playing the National Anthem in the Tamil language at the Independence Day celebration on February 4, 2016 has been dismissed by the Supreme Court.

Lawyer Mahanama De Silva, for petitioners V. S. Sudath Perera, M. P. Asiri Soysa and G. A. Don Premarathna, argued that the National Anthem should only be allowed to be sung in the Sinhala language.

However, Deputy Solicitor General Viraj Dayaratne, appearing for the Attorney General, urged that the national anthem is set out in the Sinhala language in the Sinhala version of the Constitution and Tamil language in the Tamil version of the Constitution.

The Centre for Policy Alternatives Executive Director Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu and a language rights social worker Jeevaratnam Suresh Kumar as well as Ven. Gonagala Ganaloka Thero a concerned Buddhist monk filed papers to intervene and object to the case being taken further.

They were represented in court by their counsel Viran Corea and Suren Fernando who asked the court to take the intervening petitioners’ serious concerns also into consideration.

The court was requested to consider that the Sinhala and Tamil language versions were identical in meaning and an expression of a common Sri Lankan identity which should be encouraged in the current context rather than questioned as the petitioner is trying to do through the case.

Furthermore, it was pointed out to court that under Articles 18 & 19 of the Constitution both Sinhala and Tamil enjoy parity of status as official and national languages in terms of the 13th amendment to the Constitution.

After hearing submissions at length, Supreme Court Justices Priyasath Dep, K. T. Chitrasiri and Prasanna Jayawardena ruled that they see no basis to grant the petitioners leave to proceed with the application and dismissed the case with number SC (FR) 67/2016.