water safe for drinking
By Ayesha Wijeratne
Demand for bottled drinking water is an essential part of life among Sri
Lankans. With high demand for the product, the quality has decreased and
the topic “bottled drinking water” has been widely debated in the last
The general public seems to suspect many bottled drinking water brands,
which are mushrooming in the market place, are not in good hygienic
condition and not up to the standard.
The Nation learns that only a small number of bottled water brands have
obtained the Sri Lanka Standards (SLS) by the Sri Lanka standard
Institution (SLSI). There are more than 300 substandard brands in the
market while only 52 brands are registered with the Chief Food Authority
It is important, in this context, that consumers know which products are
cleared fo0r consumption by the authorities and the requirements imposed
by law on manufacturers of bottled water.
The water industry began in the late 1980’s and rapidly developed with
the demand of the people. Primitive purifying techniques used in the
beginning by the manufacturers created lot of problems. There were
complaints of bad odour, taste and colour of the water.
When manufacturers found that their products were being rejected by the
market they contacted the Water Resource Board (WRB) to get their
problems rectified. The WRB found remedies to their problems by studying
water samples from the market and carrying out chemical and biological
“The WRB educate and advise manufacturers of bottle water on how to
improve the quality of their product”, Professor of Geo Chemistry,
Athula Senaratne, of the Faculty of Geology in the University of
Peradeniya and former Chairman of the Water Resource Board told The
The Sri Lanka Standards Institution (SLSI) with the assistance of the
WRB have drawn up standards for this industry. SLSI testing, which is
similar to the procedure adopted in many foreign countries, is
available, but the majority of the bottlers put their products to the
market without any standard certification gained from SLSI, Professor
The University of Peradeniya organized short term courses and seminars
to educate water bottlers coming from various parts of the country. The
University is also conducting an analysis in its laboratories from
samples collected island wide, and the results of this study will soon
be made available. Some of the bottled water products in the market are
known to contain water of a greenish hue and have algae and iron oxide
as well as bacteria, which is harmful to consumers.
The demand for bottled water is staggering. Though the demand is around
600,000 water bottles per annum, only 350,000 bottles are being
produced, which leaves room for abuse by unscrupulous manufacturers.
The main purpose of implementing the new regulations under the Food Act
No.26 of 1980 by the Health Ministry on the drinking bottled water and
bottled natural mineral water is to ensure quality of water.
Regulations cited as the Food (Bottled or Packaged Water) Regulations -
2005, provisions apply both to Bottled or Packaged Natural Mineral Water
and Bottled or Packaged Drinking Water.
In terms of the regulations, “No person should bottle or pack drinking
water without obtaining a certificate of registration from the Chief
Food Authority(CFA), (Director General of Health Services) - The Food
Control Administration Unit of the Health Ministry. According to these
provisions bottle or package natural mineral water should be extracted
from an underground water bearing strata or from natural or drilled
sources such as springs, wells, boreholes.
Dr C K Shanmugarajah, Director, Environmental, Occupational Health and
Food Safety Unit, Health Ministry said, they had directed all the
authorized officers - MOHs, PHIs and drug inspectors to inspect the
market and compare them with the updated list of brands registered with
the Food Authority verifying the registration numbers assigned and take
legal action against traders and manufacturers violating the provisions.
“Most individuals who own and operate the packing facilities have little
or no knowledge in the industry as a result of which the quality and
safety of the bottled water produced are often inferior which affects
the health of consumers. This also can have an adverse impact on the
The regulations apply both to imported and locally manufactured
products. A brand specific registration number will be assigned to the
premises after verifying all details ensuring the safety and quality of
the water processed. The registration, which is renewable every three
years, will have to be displayed in the label or neck of the bottle.
A manufacturer who does not comply with the requirements of the
regulations will be deemed in violation of the provisions of the Food
Act and dealt with accordingly.
Major Sarath De Silva, Director ( Quality Assurance), SLSI stated that
there are two separate standards for bottled drinking water and for
bottled packaged natural mineral water.
Sri Lanka Standard specification number for bottled drinking water is
SLS 894 whilst for natural mineral water is SLS 1038. The SLSI has
issued a code of hygienic practice to be followed by manufacturers in
relation to these standards.
To obtain the product certificate from the SLSI, a product should
conform to basic requirements given by SLSI. The manufacturer should
develop a manual regarding its management practices in that particular
manufacturing facility setting out detailed guidelines. The
manufacturer’s management procedures should be documented in the manual
because it is part of the product certification scheme.
That process being done, provision must be made for the continual
improvement of the system and the general maintenance of the system. The
SLSI checks the quality of the raw water of the source and the water
should be drawn from the sources mentioned in the regulations.
The standard provides for manufacturers to use even treated municipal
water to engage in this industry. Two samples drawn from the same source
should be passed through micro biological and chemical parameters given
in these standards before a recommendation for a final assessment.
According to the MOU sighed between the SLSI and Health Ministry, the
registration process carried out by the Health Ministry and SLSI
involved in the testing part because the authority has to get the
recommendation of a certified institution.
If all the conditions are satisfied and conform to the standard,
certification may is granted from the SLSI after inspecting the source
of the water, hydro geological report, cleanliness, perimeter and
samples from the center processing facility should go through tests such
micro biological, physical and chemical parameters.
The label should cover requirements such as date of expiry and
manufacture which should be mentioned in at least two languages and the
source of water under the Food Labeling and Advertising regulations of
2005.The expiry date depends on the quality of the content. It may be
six to 12 months. Major Silva said that the bottled water products
should be stored as a general food item and it is the manufacturers’
duty to advice retailers how to store the product properly.
The product name must prominent and it should be clearly indicated after
the brand name, as “Bottled Drinking Water”. Manufacturers should
refrain from stating any quality which would mislead the consumers and
using fancy pictures in the label unless that picture is the exact
picture of the source. The SLS product certificate is granted for three
years and assessments will be carried out to check whether they maintain
SC decision on financial institutions
A recent judgment of the Supreme Court on a case involving a leasing
company concerning the stamping of guarantees and indemnities may have
far reaching implications, particularly on banks and other financial
In a judgment delivered in SC 48/ 2004 by Justice Shiranee Bandaranayake
and concurred by Justice Gamini Amaratunga and Justice Saleem Marsoof,
the Supreme Court affirmed the order of Judge of the Commercial High
Court, K. T Chitrasiri who upheld the preliminary objection of the
defendants that the guarantee and indemnity could not be marked in
evidence if such documents had not been stamped.
Given the public importance of the matters in issue, the Supreme Court
sought the assistance of the Attorney General as amicus curiae.
The appellants, Ceylease Financial Services Ltd instituted action
against one Anjalee Siriyalatha and Liyanage Ariyapala to recover a sum
of Rs.8,914,834/-, which included overdue interest. These amounts were
claimed on the basis of guarantees and indemnities relating to three
When the guarantee and indemnity dated 19.12.1996 was sought to be
produced as evidence at the trial the defendants objected on the basis
that it had not been properly stamped. After inquiry into the objection,
Judge K. T Chitrasiri disallowed the document being marked as evidence.
At the time this document was signed there was a requirement to stamp a
“bond, pledge and mortgage’ in terms of regulations gazetted under
Gazette No.224/3 dated 20.12.1982 as amended by Gazette No.948/ 15 dated
President’s Counsel for the appellant took up the position that the
guarantee and indemnity sought to be marked was not a bond. His position
was that a bond represented a debt and, therefore, the guarantee and
indemnity was not a bond. In other words at the time of signing the
document the person issuing it should owe a specific sum of money.
Therefore, the person issuing the document should be the debtor himself
and not a third party. He contended that at the time of signing the
guarantee and indemnity, the defendants were not debtors of the
appellant. He submitted that, therefore, the document sought to be
produced was a guarantee and/ or indemnity and not a bond as determined
by the High Court judge.
In the context of these submissions, the Supreme Court considered
whether the document, which is a guarantee and indemnity, would come
within the purview of a bond. The Court expressed the view that it was
necessary to look to the substance of the document in order to identify
whether that would come within the meaning of a ‘bond’.
The Court was of the view that, “A guarantee and indemnity also deals
with a fixed sum of money that has to be paid by the guarantor at a
definite time. With regard to a guarantee and/ or indemnity, the fixed
sum of money payable by the guarantor could be ascertained on a perusal
of the schedule to a lease agreement. Such a schedule would indicate the
number of monthly payments and the relevant other payments, which would
be due at a fixed period of time. Accordingly the schedule would
specifically set out a definite and a certain sum that the guarantor
intended to guarantee by a Guarantee and Indemnity”.
President’s Counsel for the appellant also submitted that a document
that is not duly stamped at the time of execution can be stamped at a
subsequent stage and be admitted as evidence in court. Counsel for the
defendant/ respondent contended that though the deficiency could be
rectified by the payment of a penalty, it should be done prior to the
production of the document in evidence. Court held that though the
deficiency was curable in terms of section 33 of the Stamp Duty Act by
paying the requisite duty and a penalty not exceeding three times the
duty, a document could be marked in evidence, but that this must be done
prior to marking the document in evidence. Court also pointed out that
although the appellant had been granted time to cure the default, he had
not done so. Court held, “Although the Court should be mindful of not
permitting mere technicalities to hinder the process of justice, it must
also be taken into consideration that unwarranted delay would also
necessarily result in thwarting the course of justice. Although it is
necessary to grant time in remedying the deficit in stamp duty, that
should be done prior to the relevant instrument/ document is marked in
evidence and more importantly within the time fixed by the Court”.
The Supreme Court also held that the obligation to pay stamp duty, in
terms of section 24 (f), was on the maker of the document.
Banks, leasing companies and finance companies would need to be mindful
whether the documentation they intend to produce as evidence in court is
properly stamped. If they have not been stamped, the deficiency could be
cured by payment of the stamp duty and a penalty not exceeding three
times the duty before their production in court. For instance, if the
stamp duty is Rs.100,000/- the penalty may be levied up to Rs.300,000/-.
This prohibitive cost may also require financial institutions to indulge
in an exercise in cost benefit analysis before proceeding to litigation.
President’s Counsel, Nihal Fernando appeared for the appellants, while
Attorney at Law, Kushan de Alwis appeared for the respondents. J. M
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka
By Dharmapala Senaratne
It is worth reminding ourselves that President Mahinda Rajapaksa is a
member of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka. Indeed, quite a large number
of Parliamentarians including Cabinet Ministers are such members. The
same could be said of all Legislatures ever since the BASL was formed.
Such political giants as Dr. Colvin R. de Silva, Felix Dias
Bandaranaike, Gamini Dissanayaka, P. C., Lalith Atulathmudali, P. C.,
just to name a few, were no exception. It has always been a graceful
event and welcome sight when they visit Hulftsdorp in order to cast
their vote at the election of President and Secretary of the BASL.
With their professional training and the added fact that they move with
every strata of society in the country during their professional
practice, lawyers are driven to politics like ducks to water.
Furthermore, they are scattered throughout the country, and some are
with political backgrounds. Hence, it is no surprise that lawyers have
always dominated national politics.
Although another professional body, namely, Government Medical Officers’
Association has often attracted public attention on account of their
frequent trade union actions, they are a dwarf beside the BASL, to say
so with absolutely no belittling intended.
It is no exaggeration that the BASL is undisputedly the strongest and
the most influential professional organization in the country. As at
present, it has a total paid up membership of around 9000, representing
all parts of the country. Incidentally, since 1991, its electoral
registers have been computer maintained.
Yet, the BASL does not have a long history, though its roots run deeper
into the past.
The Law Society of Ceylon was incorporated in terms of Ordinance No. 33
of 1947 for the purpose of providing guidelines in respect of Proctors,
as they were then known. The other branch of the profession, namely
Advocates, were then organized under the Bar Council, which was not an
incorporated body. The professional body for Barristers in England and
Wales is still known as the Bar Council.
Thereafter, the Ordinance named above and the Legal Practitioners’
Ordinance were both repealed by the Administration of Justice Law No. 44
of 1973, enthusiastically initiated by Felix Dias Bandaranaike, the then
Minister of Justice - an Advocate himself. The AJL came into effect on
January 01, 1974.
By the provisions of the AJL, the distinction between Proctors and
Advocates was done away with. Instead, it made provision to designate
all lawyers as Attorneys of Law. Under the earlier system, the standing
and functions of Proctors and Advocates were not quite the same. But
that division, too, was removed.
Accordingly, the BASL was inaugurated in 1978 as the sole professional
body as it stands today for all Attorneys at Law as they are now known.
Views have been expressed by knowledgeable and concerned persons for and
against this amalgamation.
And both viewpoints seem to bear some merit. A certain learned one
writing on the merger said that it was confusion rather than fusion. His
arguments cannot easily be refuted either.
However, similar bifurcation of the legal profession is still found in
the UK. But in Canada and most of the States in Australia, a fusion
similar to that obtaining in our country can be seen. It means that a
lawyer can be a Barrister, Solicitor or a Proctor.
Be that as it may, the position of President of the BASL is not merely a
prestigious one but a world recognized status. All Presidents having
held the position thus far have made their contributions in their own
way for the welfare and benefit not only of the membership but also for
the country at large, at times on an international scale.
The BASL has branch associations right round the country, the largest
one numerically and otherwise being the Colombo Law Society. In these
branches, too, elections are by ballot. Incidentally, this writer
happened to be the first to challenge such election results in a court
of law, long years ago.
The constitution of the BASL provides that its President and Secretary
shall be elected annually in the month of February by the secret ballot
of its membership. There used to be a convention that once so elected,
they were permitted to be re-elected for the following year uncontested.
However, this convention has been breached on more than one occasion in
the recent past.
This writer is an Attorney-at-Law
The Lawnet website of the Ministry of Justice will be launched
tomorrow by Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva, P.C, who was instrumental in
initiating this project. The Lawnet, constructed under the Legal and
Judicial Reforms Project funded by the World Bank will be a useful
source of legal information, especially to practitioners of law,
academics and students. The website will contain, among other
information, New Law Reports, Sri Lanka Law Reports, unreported
judgments, legislation and lists of cases both in the Supreme Court and
the Court of Appeal. The latter facility will be useful to lawyers and
litigants alike to check whether a particular case is being taken up on
a given day.
Promotion to Court of Appeal
Judge of the Commercial High Court, A. W. A Salam will next week be
appointed to the Court of Appeal. Mr. Salam was at one time the
Secretary to the Judicial Services Commission. High Court Judge Ms.
Rohini Welgama is expected to fill Mr. Salam’s vacancy in the Commercial