The accused in the Palampattaru rape case was found guilty for committing rape on a 56-year-old woman and sentenced to 20 years’ rigorous imprisonment by Trincomalee High Court Judge M. Ilancheliyan.
The accused, soldier Sunil Premaratne, was also fined Rs. 5,000 in default of six months’ RI. The accused was further ordered to pay a sum of Rs. 100,000 to the complainant in default of one year of RI.
Premaratne was charged with committing rape on Rasiah Arunthavam on May 13, 2000.
According to the prosecution, led by State Counsel Ms. Suganthi Kanthasamy, the accused, a private in the Sri Lanka Army, was attached at the time to the Palampattaru army camp. About 9am on the day of the incident, the complainant was tending cattle grazing on land adjoining the Palampattaru river. The accused and another soldier, private Upali Wijeweera, were on duty on the other side of the river. The accused had then forcibly taken the complainant into a nearby bush and committed the offence.
In his evidence the first witness, private Wijeweera, said he saw the accused, with gun in one hand, dragging the complainant into a bush. On failing to see the two persons re-emerge from the bush, private Wijeweera went up to the spot some minutes later, at which point he saw the complainant running away from the scene, adjusting her clothes as she ran. The accused had then requested private Wijeweera to make no mention of what he had seen to any one. However, private Wijeweera felt duty bound to inform his superior at the army camp. The accused was later handed over to the Kantalai Police by the Sri Lanka Corps of Military Police.
On May 26, 13 days after the incident, the complainant lodged a complaint with the Kantalai Police. She was then subjected to a medical examination. In his statement, the medical officer who examined the complainant told court that rape of a middle-aged person could be ascertained up to 48 hours following such an incident. As such, almost two weeks after the alleged incident at Palampattaru, he could find no evidence of rape on the complainant, but had noted injuries on her body, including a bruise on her back and cuts on her hand.
The High Court judge held that the charge against the accused had been proved beyond reasonable doubt, based on the evidence of the first witness, private Wijeweera, and that the court was convinced the incident had taken place.
“The evidence of the army witness confirmed that both the witness and the accused were in army uniform on the day of the incident,” Judge Ilancheliyan said. “The court imposes on the accused the maximum jail sentence laid down by the law, considering that the offence was committed by a person in uniform with arms,” the judge stated in his order, citing previous related judgments made by the Supreme Court of India and the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka.
State Counsel Ms. Suganthi Kanthasamy prosecuted, while attorney-at-law A. W. A Sattar appeared for the accused.