SRI LANKA: A monk goes berserk in Court and disrupts the proceedings.

In an outrageous incident at the Homagama Magistrate’s Court, when the case of abduction and the disappearance of cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda was taken up in Court yesterday, an unusual series of events erupted, with the Chairman of the Sinhala BoduBalaSena, a member of the Bhuddhist clergy, GalgodaaththeGnanasara, stood up in the middle of the Court proceedings and had started shouting inside the Court saying that “… this Court and that this Governmet is protecting the LTTE tigers and that war heroeswho fought for the country are now being detained and prosecuted”. He further went on to say that “… they will not allow this to happen, and that they will stop these proceedings and are also ready to appear before Court to do so”. At this stage the Magistrate had instructed the monk to immediately stop behaving in this manner inside Court and that if he was a layman he would have already ordered him to be arrested and to put inside the jail. However, the monk had continued to disrupting the Court proceedings. In the meantime, the entire Bar had moved the Court to take action for such type of behaviour from the monk, amounting not only to contempt of court but in total disregard and disrespect of the sanctity of the judicial office. Meanwhile, the monk has fled, got into a car and left the court premises. After hearing the submissions of the lawyers the judge made an order to arrest and to be produced before the Court. It was also reported by the wife of Prageeth Ekneligoda that the monk was making remarks such as your husband was a tiger, and threatening her for pursuing the case inside the court. This matter was reported by Mrs Ekenligoda to the media, and which received some publicity.

What has taken place in the courtis a direct assault on the authority of the court and perhaps there is not a single instance reported of this kind of behaviour of threatening the court itself in any other proceedings. Obviously the monk was acting on a design of disputing the Court from proceedings against the officers and who have been arrested on the suspicion of them being involved in the abduction of Ekneligoda.

The remark by the Hon. Magistrate to the effect that he would have already taken action if a layman behaves in the manner that the monk was behaving in is rather unfortunate. There is no different between a laymen and a clergyman of whatever religion before courts. All are equal before the law. All law breakers are treated in the same manner. This is the only basis on which a court of law can exist. A misbehaving monk need not be treated in anyway different to a layman behaving in the same manner. It is to be hope that in the future such remark would not be made and that irrespective of the rank or religion everyone would be treated equally before the law. From a moral stand point, a misbehaving monk need to be treated more harshly as he is setting a bad example to others who are used to expect higher moral standards from clergyman.

What is being clearly indicate is that the mob violence will be provoked by the BoduBalaSena and perhaps others who are behind them against all attempts to prosecute those who are involved in the crimes against people under the pretext that they are war heroes. This first major disruption should be taken with extreme seriousness and it is up to the Magistrates Court and also the Supreme Court to take cognisance of the attack on the Court and its proceedings as a serious attack on the judiciary itself and its independence. On this basis action mustbe taken to prevent this type of incidents taking place, including contempt of proceeding against all those involved. There should be order made that this monk shall not be allowed into any court unless the court itself has summoned him.

No court can function if people see these types of actions on Courts itself, not beingretaliated with utmost seriousness. We hope that all efforts are taken, in order to protect the integrity of the Courts and their right to function without disruption.