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Sri Lankan Law Forum » Consumer Law Forum » History of Consumer Law in Sri Lanka

History of Consumer Law in Sri Lanka

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1 History of Consumer Law in Sri Lanka on Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:28 pm

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BADULU TABLET INSCRIPTION BRINGS HISTORICAL TRUTH ON CONSUMER PROTECTION
While series of internationally accepted consumer rights were originated from America and though that primary truth was contained in Sri Lankan stone inscription written in 10th century, we might think that the said fact is not true. However, these facts were included in Badulu Dem inscription written in 10th century.

Once 4th King Udaya went to Mahiyangana Chaitiya pilgrimage and residents of Hopithigamuwa who came there held an agitation saying ‘trustees of kings’ shops, penalty leaders and their servants have collected penalty, due tax, bribe in contrary to Kings Law. Because of this agitation statute was brought saying ‘tax should not be collected as per the Decree of pre King Kasyapa era. This statute was inscribed in the Badulu Dem letter. Not only levy of tax, many important issues related to social life were contained here. Consumer Right is a special feature contained here.
Hopitigama commercial village in Sorabora area, closer to Mahiyangana was discovered. Badula Dem letter is more famous than the Sorabora Dem letter which is identified as Hopitigama Dem letter. John Baily, Assistant Agent, Badulla District in 1851 brought this Dem letter which was unprotected and subjected for rain and sun, is kept in a decorated pavilion near the Kachcheri, Badulla (present Peoples’ Bank premises), for public viewing. This is the largest Dem letter with small letters among those discovered in Sri Lanka. The special feature here is that the said Dem contains series of statute which brings much satisfaction to the public.

The stone measuring 8 feet and 5 inch with four sides A B C D has 47, 49, 49 and 58 lines on those sides respectively. It is shown in the below mentioned picture.

Dr. Senarath Paranawithana says that the issue stated here could be categorized into 4 main parts.
- Rules relating to penalty imposition
- Rules relating to Govt. officers
- Trading policy
- Consumer Rights

Letters were inscribed with line and each issue was presented separately while the final scripture is completed with symbols such as sun, moon, crow and dog. These symbols indicate that the said inscription will remain in force till the sun and moon exists and violators will be reincarnated as dogs and crows. Since they feared that they would be reborn as dogs and crows as retribution, they have not violated this statute as they believed that the violators would be punished.

Among issues embodied here, rules and regulations relating to consumer protection are as follows:
- Other measuring system than Govt. tax measuring system should not be used
- Injustice through unauthorized balance and weight (while stamping)
- Not to sell goods at unsuitable place
- Selling goods at places where business is not done
- Goods not to be sold should not be sold
- Keep betel and nut at pavilion for sale
- When found things are sold at unsuitable place, remove them by Govt. servants
- Take two fold tax to undeclared goods without any problem

these kinds of many issues were contained.
The above issues were taken into consideration when formulating accepted consumer rights at international level. The above issues were contained in the provision of Consumer Authority Act No. 9 of 2003. It is to say that enactment is made saying that betel and areca nut which have to be focused on consumers health concern, has to be marketed at pavilion. Betel and areca nut are popular among the public. Since they are instantly consumed it should be kept clean.

Similarly, the King’s era Decree says that usage of weight and measure which do not comply with required standard should be avoided. This rule is more modified in the present context through ‘Weight and Measure Ordinance’. The rule that says that ‘goods should not be kept at ‘unsuitable place and market them’ was further amended as per Public Nuisance Ordinance No.15 of 1862 which say ‘selling or prompting to sell food and drink which are unsuitable for consumption and become poisonous through consumption is a punishable offence.

The above statute which was inscribed on stone with Brahmiya letters at a primitive level in 10th century is now used to keep public life at a better level. While we have passed hundreds of years and come to the present era, various common issues existed in the King era are still prevalent. The Statute enacted in that era is still useful to the present time.

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