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Monday, July 22, 2024

Contempt of Court in Sri Lanka : AG files 14 witnesses list against Minister Ramanayake

The Attorney General yesterday filed a list of 14 witnesses in the Supreme Court on the alleged offence of Contempt of Court against Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake.

The Court fixed argument on 10, 11 and 12 December.

The Bench comprised Chief Justice Priyasath Dep, Justices Vijith K. Malalgoda and Lalith Dehideniya.

The Rule was already read to the Accused Respondent Ramanayake. He had pleaded not guilty.

The Attorney General on 30 July furnished draft Rule against Ramanayake complaining of him having allegedly committed the offence of Contempt of Court.

The Court on 18 June directed the Attorney General to furnish draft Rule against the Deputy Minister to show cause as to why he should be charged in respect of two petitions complaining of him having committed the alleged offence of Contempt of Court.

When the matter came up on 18 June, President’s Counsel M.A. Sumanthiran with Jerusha Crossette Thambiah appearing for Ramanayake submitted that procedure should be followed in all courts according to Section 793 of the Criminal Procedure Code in Chapter 9 which reads the procedure shall be followed in all courts. He submitted that according to that it is the person who complains who should forward the summons containing the charges to be served on the Respondent.

He contended that the Attorney General has no role in the proceedings.

Additional Solicitor General Priyantha Navana appearing for the Attorney General had cited former Minister S.B. Dissanayake’s case and submitted that the procedure followed in that case was that it was the Attorney General who drafted the Rule for Contempt.

Counsel Sumanthiran submitted that the S.B. Dissanayake’s case could not be followed because the expressed provision of the law was not followed in that case. He contended that therefore it is per curriem and the practice of the Court cannot override the expressed provision of law.

The Additional Solicitor appearing for the Attorney General had told Court at a glance there is a prima facie case (based on the first impression; accepted as correct until proved otherwise) against Ramanayake.

Petitioner Sunil Perera is seeking Contempt of Court action against Ramanayake for alleged statement/ made at a press conference held on 21 August allegedly damaging the reputation of the Judiciary and lawyers. Rasika Tissanayake with Suraj Walgama appeared for the Petitioners.

He alleges the statement amounts to a disrepute and insult to the Judiciary and the lawyers of the country.

He claims the Respondent Ramanayake is liable to be punished under Article 105(3) of the Constitution.

Article 105(3) reads: The Supreme Court of the Republic of Sri Lanka and the Court of Appeal of the Republic of Sri Lanka shall each be a Superior Court of record and shall have all the powers of such Court including the power to punish for Contempt of Court itself, whether committed in the Court itself or elsewhere, with imprisonment or fine or both as the Court may deem fit.

He states that the utterance/statement is made at a time where the international community and organisations are trying to force the country to establish special courts/tribunals to charge the war heroes with the participation of judges from overseas by infringing the sovereignty of the people.

He contends that his attack on and insult to the Judiciary of the country could lead to bifurcation of complex issues faced by the country.

He states that the utterance/statement made by the Respondent ridicules and insulting to the members of the legal profession at large who are the officers of the Court also amounts to the commission of offence of Contempt of Court.

M.A. Sumanthiran PC with Jerusha Crossette Thambiah appeared for Ramanayake. Additional Solicitor General Priyantha Navana with Senior State Counsel Shuharsho Herath appeared for the Attorney General.

By S.S. Selvanayagam /FT


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