Fundamental rights
The fundamental rights declared and recognized by the Constitution of Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka "shall be respected, secured and advanced by all the organs of government, and shall not be abridged, restricted or denied save in the manner and to the extent provided by the Constitution" (Article 4(d)).
These rights are set out in Chapter III of the Constitution and may be summarized as follows:
(A) Rights available to every "person", namely :
  • Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
  • Freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
  • Right to equality before the law and the equal protection of the law
  • Right to non-discrimination on grounds of race, religion, language, caste, sex, political opinion or place of birth
  • Right not to be arrested excepted according to procedure established by law, and to be informed of the reason for the arrest
  • Right not to be kept in custody without a judicial order for longer than the period prescribed by law.
  • Right of a person charged with an offence to be heard in person or through an Attorney-at-Law at a fair trial by a competent court
  • Right not to be punished with death or imprisonment except by order of a competent court made in accordance with procedure established by law
  • Right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty
  • Right not to be punished retrospectively, i.e. for something that was not an offence at the time it was committed
(B) Rights (over and above the foregoing rights) that are available to every "citizen" namely:
  • Freedom of speech and expression including publication
  • Freedom of peaceful assembly.
  • Freedom of association.
  • Freedom to form and join a trade union
  • Freedom to manifest one's religion by observance, practice and teaching.
  • Freedom, by oneself or in association with others, to promote one's own culture and use one's own language
  • Freedom to engage in any lawful occupation, profession, trade, business or enterprise.
  • Freedom of movement and of choosing one's residence within Sri Lanka.
  • Freedom to return to Sri Lanka
  • If the Court finds that there is an infringement or imminent infringement of any of the petitioner's fundamental rights set out in the Constitution, it is empowered to "grant such relief or make such directions as it may deem just and equitable in the circumstances".
The "right to life"
It may be noted that Sri Lanka's Constitution does not expressly recognize the right to life.