Case Reference/File No [1983] 1 SriLR 374
Case Name Fernando v. Attorney-General and another
Court Supreme Court
Date of judgement 24th and 25th Feb 1983
Judges Samarakoon J
Wanasundera J
Victor Perera J
Parties Petitioner



1st respondent – The Attorney-General
2nd respondent – Superintendent of Police, Police Station, Vavuniya
3rd and 4th respondents – Police officers, Police Station, Vavuniya
Keywords Fundamental rights under Articles 10, 11, 13 (1) of the Constitution – Section 77 (1) and (3) of the Police Ordinance, No. 16 of 1865 – Section 45 of the Referendum Act, No. 07 of 1987
Head note  
Brief facts The petitioner, a medical practitioner attached to the Base Hospital, Vavuniya, purportedly organized a procession and a fast against the arrest and detention of three Christian Clergymen, a Doctor, a University Lecturer and his wife who had been arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Dr. Rajasunderam who was the Organizing Secretary of the Gandiyan Society was the organizer of the fast. The plan was to gather at the St. Anthony’s Church at 9.00 am and go in procession to the Young Men’s Hindu Association to stage the fast. According to the petitioner they were informed that the police did not permit the procession. The petitioner submitted that the previous plan was changed and the fast was to be staged at the Church premises. It was the petitioner’s version that the police entered the Church premises and attacked the peaceful fasters and the petitioner was arrested along with several others and was assaulted. The respondents’ version was that the procession entered the highway and was blocked by the police. Then the people squatted on the road and the rear of the procession was in the Church compound and the people in the church premises were peacefully seated while the others were on the road squatting and fasting. The police were attacked with stones by the participants of the procession which caused injury to the police officers and damage to police jeeps which were parked opposite the Church. The respondents’ version was supported by the statement of Rev. Alban Rajasingham, Parish Priest of St. Anthony’s Church on which the court observed the controversy between the two versions. The Court rejected the petitioner’s position that the people in the Church compound were participants of a peaceful assembly, considering the fact that “the tail cannot disown the head when it suits it”. The Court further held that the procession was illegal in terms of section 45 (a) of the Referendum Act, No. 07 of 1981 and section 77(1) of the Police Ordinance, No. 16 of 1865.  

The police had the power to act in the way, they did and it does not matter if they purported to do it in reference to the wrong provisions of law.
Judicial Precedence The court held that the police do not have to quote chapter and verse from statutes and legal literature to justify an arrest.
Legislation Title The Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka 1978, Police Ordinance, No. 16 of 1865, Referendum Act, No. 07 of 1987
Area Articles 10, 11, 13(1) of the Constitution; Section 77 (1) of the Police Ordinance, No. 16 of 1865; Section 45 of the Referendum Act, No. 07 of 1987