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Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court hears petition by Jaffna University lecturer appealing practice ban

Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court began hearing a Fundamental Rights Petition filed by Jaffna University senior lecturer Dr Kumaravadivel Guruparan, challenging the decision of the University Grants Commission and University of Jaffna to bar him from legal practice.

Last year, the senior law lecturer and prominent civil society representative was barred from engaging in private practice following pressure from the Sri Lankan military, after he took up a public interest habeas corpus case into the 1996 disappearance of more than two dozen Tamil youth.

The ban drew outrage from around the world, with hundreds signing a statement condemning the ‘threats, harassment and reprisals’ against the prominent human rights lawyer and the international human rights organisation Front Line Defenders has issued an urgent appeal. The case was also highlighted by the US State Department’s 2019 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Sri Lanka.

“The highlight of today's proceedings was when Romesh de Silva PC stating that I am using the case to 'defame the country’,” tweeted Guruparan earlier today. “I look forward to the UGC's most eminent counsel expanding on this legal (?!) argument on the next date.”

De Silva, a prominent Sri Lankan lawyer, has appeared for current Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa as recently as last year.

The Supreme Court bench comprised Justices Priyantha Jayawardena, Padman Surasena and Yasantha Koddagoda. Jayawardena informed the court that he had previously articulated his position that law academics should be allowed to engage in legal practice and recused himself, with the case to be taken before a fresh bench on July 16.