Challenges non-admittance of civilians/non-military
BY Buddhika SamaraweeraA petition has been filed by a civilian seeking a Writ of Prohibition against the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University (KDU), over taking any decision or action to advertise, admit, instruct, or conduct courses, trainings, or programmes for persons who are not pre-cadet officers, cadet officers, officers, or public officers at the KDU.The petitioner is Deshan Vimukthi de Silva, a 22-year-old student who sat for the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced Level (A/L) examination first in 2019, and then in 2020 as a private candidate.The KDU, KDU Chancellor Gen. (Retd.) Gerard Hector de Silva, KDU Board of Management Chairman and Defence Secretary Gen. (Retd.) Kamal Gunaratne, KDU Director Board Members P.B.S.C. Nonis, Gen. L.H.S.C. Silva, Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne, Air Marshal S.K. Pathirana, and Maj. Gen. Milinda Peiris, and University Grants Commission (UGC) Chairman Senior Prof. Sampath Amaratunge are among the respondents.In the application, the petitioner has stated that after sitting for the A/L examination, he was keen to pursue his higher education and was considering the fee levying options for pursuing an undergraduate degree that are available in the country. Accordingly, in August 2021, the petitioner had come to know of an advertisement by the respondents calling for a variety of courses at the KDU.According to the petitioner, the applications have thus been called from any person identifying as a “suitably qualified Sri Lankan candidate” who has sat for the GCE A/L exam in 2019 or 2020 or the Cambridge/Edexcel A/L in 2020 or 2021, for degrees including those on Strategic Studies and International Relations, Engineering, Law, Management and Technical Sciences, Logistic Management, Social Sciences, Applied Data Science Communication, Teaching English to Speakers of Languages, Software Engineering, Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Data Science and Business Analytics, Nursing, Physiotherapy, Medical Laboratory Sciences, Radiotherapy, Pharmacy, Building Science Technology, Construction Technology, Biomedical Instrumentation Technology, Surveying Sciences, Architecture, Quantity Surveying, Information Technology, Information Systems, and Information and Communication Technology.The petitioner has mentioned in the application that the said advertisement demonstrates that decisions have been taken by the respondents to admit students who are not pre-officer cadets, officer cadets, officers, and public officers and instruct and conduct courses of study, hold examinations, and grant or confer degrees, diplomas, and certificates in academic studies that are not relevant to pre-officer cadet, officer cadet, officer, and public officer training.In the writ application, the petitioner has further stated that he was astonished and dismayed to learn that the intake of civilian students by the KDU is not legally permissible and that there is no power granted in law to the KDU to admit such students and instruct and conduct courses of study, hold examinations, and grant or confer degrees, diplomas, and certificates in academic studies to such students.“The UGC Chairman is responsible for the maintenance of academic standards in higher educational institutions and as such, serving on the KDU’s Board of Management presents a conflict of interest especially in relation to the former’s position on the legality of the admission of civilian students to the KDU and the ability to guarantee that civilian students will not be indoctrinated and be acclimatised to a militaristic culture which also directly has a bearing on the students freedoms of thought and expression,” the application read.It further stated that the KDU law does not provide for non-military or persons not training to be a part of the military to be admitted or instructed.“The petitioner is now aware that the respondents have been conducting programmes without legal authority in previous years, and that there are students who have received degrees and are currently studying at the KDU to secure degrees in the years to come. This application is not intended to invalidate past actions by the respondents and their predecessors in a manner that would affect the education and qualifications of such students,” it added.The petitioner has also stated in the application that the decision of the respondents to advertise and prepare to conduct such for newly admitted civilian students is arbitrary, irrational, and capricious. “Such decision/s by the respondents are unreasonable and extremely damaging to the fundamental principles of academic freedom and the autonomy of higher education as recognised in the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court on the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by Articles 10 (freedom of thought, conscience, and religion) and 12(1) (right to equality and equal protection of the law) of the Constitution."He has claimed that the said decision of the KDU lacks necessary legal basis and is also contrary to the Constitution and that it violates the rule of law.