The Asian Human Rights Commission has received a detailed complaint from Mrs. Herath Mudiyanselage Podi Kumarihami of Poojanagaraya, Mahiyangana, in the Badulla District. Her complaint reveals that the Magistrate of the Mahinganaya Magistrate’s Court, Ms. Thisani Thenabadu has taken several actions against. The Petitioner alleges that the said Magistrate has been harassing her and violating her rights by illegal imprisonments and initiating and hearing of a case in which the said Magistrate herself has personal interest. The following are the alleged transgressions of the Magistrate that the Petitioner complains of;The right of a Magistrate to issue such orders regarding the dress code of the litigants – for women to only wear white when coming to court;
- Preventing a litigant from entering the court premises for a lawful purpose on the basis of such an order;
- Initiating a criminal trial without a criminal charge – as such an order cannot give rise to a criminal charge;
Hearing the case herself, while been an interested party – thus violating the basic rules of fair trial;
Previous acts of harassment in connivance with some police officers;
Illegal imprisonment of the Petitioner on several previous occasions;
Failure to initiate any action against police officers for torture of her son and herself, after the Magistrate was made aware of such acts;
Threatening the Petitioner that she would be taught a lesson for disrespecting the police and also threatening her not to employ any lawyers in the Petitioner’s case before the Magistrate;
Overall purpose of all these, is to support the move of some police officers to grab her land, by expelling her from her own land;
Colluding in land grabbing.
It appears that the Registrar of the Magistrate’s Court, on the basis of the Magistrate’s order has put up a public notice that every woman who is entering the Court premises should be wearing only white attire, and the police officers on guard have been instructed not to allow anyone who is not wearing white attire to enter the Court premises.
This notice is a violation of the rights of women. No Magistrate has any power to prescribe which type and what colour of attire a woman should wear to a court. All that is required is that a person appearing before a court as a litigant, should be decently dressed. And this is not a requirement prescribed for a particular court but for any court in the country.
It is not within the power of any Magistrate to prescribe anything beyond the general requirement of being decently dressed as a mark of respect for the Court. However, which colour a person should be wearing has nothing to do with the requirement of being decently dressed. One could be quiet decently dressed in any colour. There is nothing in the law nor does it carry any common sense to say that one particular colour is more decent than the other.
After having such a notice published, which the Magistrate had no authority to promulgate, the Magistrate has also deployed police officers as guards, at the gate of the Magistrate’s Court with the instructions that any female, who does not comply with the white-attire requirement should not be allowed to enter the court. The litigants to a court come on the basis of summons or by other obligations to attend Court and to attend to lawful businesses associated with litigation. It is not within the power of the Magistrate or of any police or security officer to prevent a person entering a court premises for such lawful engagement.
Thus, the Registrar who has signed these regulations, the Magistrate who has issued these regulations, and the police officers who have attempted to enforce these regulations have all acted against the basic rights of a citizen to enter the court premises for a lawful purpose.
Further, they have endangered the lawful rights of any such citizen who may be subjected to an adverse judgment on the basis of his or her absence from court – which is in fact caused by such a notice and its enforcement.
A woman who had been having several long disputes with some of the police officers and this particular Magistrate regarding an attempt to oust her from her land which is said to be over 2 acres in extent. The Petitioner states that some police officers have been planning to grab for the purpose of sand-mining, has been charged on the basis of a breach of the abovementioned white-dress code notice, and brought before the same Magistrate who has remanded her and thereafter, charged her and is now inquiring into the very charge that she herself has filed. This particular case bears No. BR1930/15 of the Mahiyanganaya Magistrate’s Court.
The Petitioner categorically states that the Magistrate has a personal interest in the case and that therefore, she herself fears that the case has been instituted in violation of the principles of a fair trial. A judge is required to be impartial and in this instance the Magistrate’s action lacks impartiality.
The Petitioner also states that on a previous occasion when she was produced before this Magistrate, the same Magistrate has told her that the Petitioner should learn to respect police officers, or otherwise she as the Magistrate, will teach her a lesson – since her husband (Magistrate’s husband) is himself a DIG (A Deputy Inspector General of Police). The Petitioner also states that the Magistrate is aware of the attempt by the police officers to oust the Petitioner from her land and that the Petitioner believes that the Magistrate is acting in collusion with such police officers.
The Petitioner also states that in the course of these events, her son was severely tortured by the police officers at the Mahiyanganaya police station and that due to serious injuries he had to be hospitalised. This matter has been brought to the notice of the Magistrate and the Magistrate without taking any action against the police officers has instead, remanded the torture victim’s mother – the Petitioner.
The police officers have on one other occasion beaten her and that has been brought to the notice of the Magistrate but no action has been taken against the said police officers.
The Petitioner further states that due to the joint harassment by the police and the Magistrate, she had to live in hiding for a long time and that as a result, she has been unable to carry earn her livelihood as a vendor engaged in selling of vegetables.
The Petitioner further states that she had been threatened by the said Magistrate not to take services of any of the lawyers in her cases and if she wants, she herself should cross examine the witnesses. Initially several lawyers have appeared for her but now as they are afraid of getting into conflicts with the Magistrate, they have refused to appear for her.
The Petitioner fears for her future, and the future of her family, and the future of her property.
The Petitioner has written to the Judicial Services Commission complaining about this Magistrate and her behaviour but so far, to her knowledge, no action has been taken against the Magistrate. The Petitioner requests the Government, as well as judicial authorities, and police authorities to inquire into this matter and to take appropriate action to protect the Petitioner’s rights.
She also appeals to the public, including the Media to come to her rescue.
The Asian Human Rights Commission has consistently brought to the notice of the Government and the public, that there is a serious collapse of the judicial system in Sri Lanka and it states that the above case illustrates this situation and quite sharply.
Under these circumstances, a serious discussion involving all parties, the Government, the authorities and the people of Sri Lanka remains a dire need not only for this Petitioner but also for all Sri Lankans.