By Saman Indrajith
The government yesterday presented a bill seeking the approval of Parliament to bring about new laws to control the conduct of bhikkhus and to punish those who did not abide by the new laws.
The Bill titled Theravadi Bhikku Kathikawath (Registration) seeks to “provide for the formulation and registration of Kathikawath in relation to Nikaya or Chapters of Theravadi Bhikkhus in Sri Lanka to provide for every bhikkhu to act in compliance with the provisions of the Registered Kathikawath of the Nikaya or Chapter which relates to such bhikku, to impose punishment on bhikkus who act in violation of the provisions of any Registered Kathikawath and for the matters connected therewith or incidental hitherto.”
The bill was presented by Chief Government Whip and Parliament Reforms and Mass Media Minister Gayantha Karunathilaka.
The bill seeks to set up a code of conduct and discipline which would enable Mahanayake theras to punish a bhikkus who engage in or carry out occult practices or similar activities and giving publicity to such activities; involve in trade or business activities; obtain driving licences and drive vehicles, engage in any employment in the public or private sector other than in the fields of education, social services and religious affairs and engage in activities unsuitable for a bhikku in a manner contrary to bhikku vinaya in public places.
Bhikkus who violate aforementioned provisions will be punished with temporary or permanent expulsion from the residing temple, temporary or permanent removal from the office of Viharadhipathy, expulsion from the studentship, expulsion from the relevant Nikaya or chapter and cancellation of the bhikku registration, the bill says.
According to the bill, the Karaka Sangha Sabha of each Theravadi Bhikku Nikaya or Chapter (namely the three nikayas adopted and accepted in Sri Lanka in accordance with the Theravadi tradition as Shyamopali Maha Nakaya, Sri Lanka Amarapura Maha Nikaya and Sri Lanka Ramgnna Maha Nikaya) is expected to formulate and adopt a Kathikawath to that Nikaya or Chapter.
Every Kathikawath shall have provisions pertaining to the composition and functions of the Karaka Sangha sabha of the relevant Nikaya or chapter, a code of conduct and discipline to be strictly followed by a bhikku in conducting himself; the manner of conducting inquiries in case of violation by a bhikku of the code of conduct and discipline and punishments for such violations.
The Minister of Buddhist Affairs in consultation with the Most Venerable Mahanayake theras of the three nikayas, is expected to appoint a five member panel of experts which shall consist of three Buddhist bhikkus; and two attorneys at law conversant with the disciplinary rules pertaining to Buddhist bhikkus for the purpose of examining the Kathikawaths.
“A bhikku who fails or refuses to comply with such decision shall be guilty of an offence under this Act and shall on conviction after summary trial by a magistrate be liable to a fine not less than Rs 50,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or both such fine and imprisonment.”