The BBC Sinhala service reported yesterday ( May 22), that during Magistrate’s court proceedings relating to Bharata Lakshman Premachandra’s murder, the court was informed by counsel that his daughter Hirunika will be charged by the Attorney General’s department for contempt of court for breaking coconuts after court proceedings on a previous day.
According to the report, the learned Magistrate has rightly responded by stating that it is due to the failures of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in carrying out his orders to arrest Duminda Silva, an accused in this case, that protests have taken place.
In this case, Bharata Lakshman Premachandra and several others were murdered and several suspects have already been arrested. However, the main suspect in the case, Duminda Silva, has not yet been arrested and produced before the court, despite of the fact that orders have been issued by the court to arrest and produce him in court.
The failure on the part of the CID to arrest Duminda Silva has come under criticism from the lawyers for the aggrieved party as well as the public.
The threat of bringing contempt of court charges on Hirunika for expressing dissatisfaction about the manner in which the CID is conducing this case is clearly an attempt to misuse the judicial process in order to silence the criticism against the political maneuvers to sabotage the criminal proceedings against the alleged perpetrators of the murder of Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra and others.
In fact, it is the CID officers attending to this case that should be prosecuted under the contempt of court charges for the failure to carry out the orders of the magistrate. Their failure to comply with the orders to arrest and produce Duminda Silva amounts to sabotage of the judicial process. The contempt of court is an appropriate remedy in order to ensure compliance with the orders of the judges, whose duty it was to ensure that court proceedings are being conducted according to the law.
However, the threat now is the daughter of the deceased who is demanding justice is to be prosecuted for making such a demand.
It is quite well known that the CID’s failure to arrest Duminda Silva is a result of poitical pressures. That powerful politicians have been associated with Duminda Silva and are now trying to protect him is quite well known to the public. Under these circumstances, the threat made to Hirunika will also be perceived, naturally, as a further political maneuver by the powerful lobby that are engaged in the attempt to subvert the process of justice in this case.
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has for many years demanded and agitated for a contempt of court law. The Bar Association has also submitted a draft law on contempt of court several years back. However, despite promises by the government place this draft law before the parliament, no action has been taken to fulfill these promises.
The Asian Human Rights Commission has consistently protested against the misuse of contempt of court proceedings in Sri Lanka. One of the glaring examples of such misuse was the conviction of Micheal Anthony (“Tony”) Fernando for one year’s rigourous imprisonment under contempt of court charges. The UN Human Rights Committee, in their final order on the communication filed by Tony Fernando, held that the Supreme Court order for imprisonment amounted to violation of human rights and ordered compensation to be paid to him for illegal imprisonment. The Human Rights Committee also recommended that the government of Sri Lanka should speedily pass a contempt of court law inkeeping with the international norms and standards in order to prevent the reoccurrence of such cases. For details, please find the case herein http://www.alrc.net/doc/mainfile.php/un_cases/351/.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee made the same recommendations again in their findings relating to the communication filed by SB Dissanayake. http://www.alrc.net/doc/mainfile.php/un_cases/520/.
The Asian Human Rights Commission urges the Attorney General’s department to desist from the misuse of the contempt of court proceedings for political purposes.
- | A statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission