Date of Award


Publication Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name



Faculty of Law


freedom of religion and state neutrality, fundamental human rights, preferred and endorsed religions, state-religion relationships, the conflict of constitutional duties, the Constitution of Sri Lanka


Venkatesh, V.




Both of Sri Lanka’s post-independence, autochthonous, republican constitutions have contained within their pages a directive which declares that “Buddhism shall have foremost place”. The framers of Sri Lanka’s constitution insisted that this was simply an acknowledgement of the “special” place of Buddhism in the fabric of Sri Lanka’s history. However, recent history has shown this provision being used directly and indirectly to deny portions of Sri Lankans their fundamental rights. The victims of this provision belong both to the majority and minority religions. The question this thesis attempted to answer was: does Sri Lanka’s duty to Buddhism under Article 9 of the Constitution conflict with its duties to its citizens under fundamental rights provisions? This thesis argues that (i) such a conflict does exist and (ii) where it arises the state has time after time prioritized the promotion and protection of Buddhism over protecting its citizens’ fundamental rights, and that this has in turn affected the state’s ability to deal neutrally with its citizens. Four instances of this conflict are examined in detail: the restrictions placed on proselytization, the Deeghavapi case, the child monk and the re-imposition of a ban on women’s ability to purchase alcohol. This thesis further argues that legal and political protections afforded to religious minorities, such as personal laws and special laws are insufficient to protect the rights of vulnerable groups within those minorities and instead serve to promote communalism.