Former Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake today declined to plead guilty or not guilty when the case filed by the Bribery Commission was heard in the Colombo Chief Magistrate’s Court on the grounds that her lawyers were not allowed full access to the bank accounts on which the case was based.
During the inquiry State Counsel Dilan Ratnayake informed Chief Magistrate Gihan Pilapitiya that the case was fixed to allow the prosecution to read out the charges and thereafter for Ms. Bandaranayaka to either plead guilty or not guilty.
Counsel Nalin Ladduwahetty PC appearing with a team of lawyers for Ms. Bandaranayaka informed the Magistrate that the NDB Bank had not allowed full access to the data on the two bank accounts of the suspect as ordered by Court and he said his client was not in a position to either plead guilty or not guilty without inspecting the data that are stored in the computers.
|Ex-CJ in the dock
During the hearing which took heated turns at times, the ousted Chief Justice stood in the dock reserved for suspects and watched the entire proceeding.
The hearing was postponed twice during the morning session, and thereafter the Magistrate postponed the inquiry again for 2 pm in the afternoon, after the legal team representing the former Chief Justice flatly refused to enter a plea of either guilty or not guilty.
State Counsel Ratnayake said the date fixed was to read out the charges and therefore they had to proceed with the case. He said that was the procedure that had to be followed and the court could not veer from that process.
Counsel Ladduwahetty objecting said that inspecting the computer data of the accounts was part and parcel of the case and therefore the court had given an order allowing the suspect to inspect the data before pleading guilty or not guilty. The counsel said inspecting the computer data was a must before pleading to the charges.
Counsel Kalinga Indatissa watching the interests of the NDB Bank said the bank could not allow the suspect to inspect the entire data on the computers but could only allow the suspect to access certain data relating to the account.
After considering the submissions by both parties, Magistrate Pilapitiya ordered the bank to submit a report on May 20 stating as to what data the bank could allow the suspect’s lawyers to access. He also fixed the trial for August 4.
A host of local and international lawyers were present during the proceedings as observers. (T. Farook Thajudeen) DM
|Matter of access and procedure
Nalin Laduwahetty PC: There were two Gestapo type officers who had said they were from the Bribery Commission during all four days we went to access the computers. The bank only gave what they wanted to give us and each time it was after the documents were shown to these officers.
Magistrate: But you have to enter a plea, either guilty or not guilty.
Laduwahetty PC: I can’t because we were not given full access to the computers, if we were given full access we would have.
Magistrate: This situation has never arisen before in this court and during my entire judicial career. There is a procedure you must follow and it is the regular procedure for everyone. There can’t be any extraordinary process.