154 years after the Sri Lanka Police was established, an Acting Woman Deputy Inspector General (WDIG) took office last October. DIG Bimshani Jasin Arachchi was thus appointed to the post following a progressive career in the Police. Her appointment was seen as a step in the right direction in achieving gender inclusivity in a largely male-dominated profession. However, four months after she resumed duties, a Fundamental Rights petition has been filed by 33 Senior Superintendents of Police (SSPs), challenging her appointment to the post of Acting WDIG.
An illustrious career
Bimshani Jasin Arachchi is a graduate of the Ruhuna University and holds a Masters in Human Rights from the University of Colombo.
Having joined the police force as a Sub-Inspector in 1997, Jasin Arachchi subsequently passed the Assistant Superintendent of Police examination in 2001. However, she had received her official appointment in 2007. She was then appointed as a Superintendent of Police in 2013 and a Senior Superintendent of Police in 2017. She also worked in the Criminal Investigation Department and before being appointed Acting WDIG, she was also the Director of the Children and Women Abuse Prevention Bureau.
The Petition, filed by Ruwan Gunasekara, Director, Legal Division and 32 other SSPs states that the decision made by the National Police Commission to appoint Bimshani Jasin Arachchi to the post of Acting Woman Deputy Inspector General is illegal and gravely prejudicial and that it has been done in an illegal, unlawful and an arbitrary manner, in complete disregard of the existing laws.
The petitioner male senior police officers have stated that the appointment of Ms Jasin Arachchi has caused serious and irreversible damage to their careers in the Police Department. They have stated that at the point of the said appointment there was no cadre position available within Sri Lanka Police by the rank Acting WDIG and as such the said promotion (although made in an acting capacity) is ex-facie violative and ultra-vires of their own approved scheme of recruitment and promotion.
It further states that the Petitioners are advised to state the Right to Equality and equal protection of the law which postulates freedom from arbitrary decision-making and capricious action as guaranteed by Article 12(1) of the Constitution as well as the Right to Employment as envisaged under Article 14(1)(g) of the Constitution which says “the freedom to engage by himself or in association with others in any lawful occupation, profession, trade, business or enterprise;”, have both been infringed by the impugned action which forms the subject matter of the application. The petitioners asked for a declaration that the letter of appointment issued to Ms Jasin Arachchi be made null and void.
The Petitioners called to issue an interim order staying the decision of the Chairman and Secretary of the Police Commission to antedate the appointment of Ms Jasin Arachchi to the rank of Woman Assistant Superintendent of Police (WASP) to the subsequent ranks of Woman Superintendent of Police (WSP) and Woman Senior Superintendent of Police (WSSP) until the final determination of the application.
The Petitioners also called to issue an interim order directing the Respondents and/or any one or more of them or their successors and/or their servants and/or agents thereof to remove Ms Jasin Arachchi from the post of acting WDIG and/or rescind their decision to appoint her to the post of acting WDIG of Sri Lanka Police.
Petition fixed for May
Senior counsel and fundamental rights lawyer Chrishmal Warnasuriya who appeared for Ms Jasin Arachchi said that when looking into the details, Ms Jasin Arachchi is the most senior police officer. “The petition states that there are no criteria in place for women to be appointed to the post of DIG which we dispute. After SSP, there is no classification of male and female and we understand that anybody could be appointed to that position. But from September to March, several male DIGs have been appointed but they are junior to her.” Interim relief has been sought which the court did not grant but the respondent’s party is filing papers in objection. The Petition is fixed for support on May 18, 2021.
A discriminatory approach
“The Police Dept has different cadre for men and women, which in itself is discriminatory,” opined lawyer and human rights advocate Ambika Satkunanathan.
“Secondly, the fact that the cadre positions for women don’t go above SSP shows the department believes that women are not fit to serve in the positions of DIG or IGP and lead the dept. This illustrates the existence of deep-rooted patriarchy and sexism within the institution. Do you think persons who believe women cannot hold certain positions of power within the department treat women complainants, such as women victims of violence, respectfully, as equals and be responsive to their specific needs?”