SRI LANKA: A senior lawyer misleads the Supreme Court regarding a case of torture 

AHRC-STM-058-2013.jpgWhen the case regarding the torture of Chamila Bandara Jayaratne came before the Supreme Court yesterday (March 11) the lawyer appearing for the respondent police officers, Mr. Manohara de Silva, mislead the court by stating that leave to proceed had not been granted by the Supreme Court in this case. In fact, leave to proceed in this fundamental rights case was issued on September 18, 2003 by three judges of the Supreme Court, Fernando, J., Wigneswaran, J. and Weerasuriya, J. On that occasion the court ordered the respondents to file objections on or before November 10, 2003. After the respondents filed their objections the case was fixed for argument on August 5, 2004. On that day Mr. Manohara de Silva marked his appearance for the 1st to 4th respondents.

Since then the case has been called before the Supreme Court on April 15, 2004, March 23, 2005, May 25, 2005, September 14, 2005, November 30, 2005, July 28, 2011, August 22, 2011 and September 14, 2011. On all these occasions Mr. de Silva appeared for the 1st to 4th respondents and Dr. Almeida Gunaratne PC with Lasitha Chaminda for the petitioner. Therefore, Mr. de Silva was fully aware that in this case leave to proceed had been granted and that the case had been called for argument on so many occasions. Therefore, when he told the court yesterday that leave to proceed had not been granted in this case he was, in fact, deliberately lying with the intention to mislead the court. The lawyer for the petitioner yesterday, Lasitha Chaminda, clearly pointed out to the court that the case had been fixed for argument. However, on the basis of Mr. de Silva’s submission the case was taken out of the list for argument and fixed as a calling case for ascertaining as to whether leave to proceed has been granted.

Thus, a case filed in 2003 is still pending before the courts with no fault at all on the part of the petitioner. The petitioner was the mother of Chamila Bandara Jayaratne who was a minor at the time he was seriously injured by several police officers belonging to the Ankumbara Police Station. Subsequent to a complaint of torture being filed on behalf of the young boy, the police filed several fabricated cases regarding robbery and theft against him. After many years of litigation Chamila Bandara was acquitted of all the charges and these acquittals go to prove the claim of the petitioner that he was arrested without any basis and that the statements obtained from him were done by way of severe torture.

On issuing the leave to proceed in this case the Supreme Court also ordered, among other things, that: ‘the National Police Commission (NPC) and the Human Rights Commission (HRCSL) are directed to forward to the registrar of the court, within two weeks from today, reports as to their investigations relating to the complaint made by the petitioner in this case’. Both the NPC and the HRCSL came to the conclusion after inquiry that, in fact, Chamila Bandara had been tortured by the police.

Mr. Manohara de Silva, who has appeared for several of the respondents, has also accused, in open court, the Asian Human Rights Commission for supporting the young victim in this case. He has tried to portray the idea that supporting a torture victim to seek justice before the Supreme Court is some sort of an anti-national activity done with ulterior motives. This kind of baseless allegations are made solely due to the irritation of this lawyer who has found that a torture victim from a poor family has been able to pursue his demand for justice despite of his humble background. It is sad to note that lawyers try to win cases by discouraging the opposing party from pursuing their claims. The adversarial system has been so misused for lawyers who want the opposing party not to contest them so as to gain an easy victory.

Lying to the court is perjury. In fact, the contempt of court process has a meaning only when used against this kind of practice which undermines the process of justice. Unfortunately in recent cases contempt of court is used only for political purposes.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-058-2013
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Human rights defenders, Judicial system, Police violence, Rule of law, Torture,