The Supreme Court has found that the District Judge of Jaffna has misconceived and misconstrued the relevance of the Constitution in a case involving the American Ceylon Mission (ACM), the Church of South India (Jaffna Diocese), and a split in the church over the disputed election of a new Bishop.
The Jaffna District Court Judge had referred the case to the Supreme Court on the basis it involved the right and freedom of worship as guaranteed in the Constitution.
In this case parties purporting to be the American Ceylon Mission and its treasurer filed this action against the Wider Church Ministries, United Church of Christ U.S.A, and 12 others in the District Court of Jaffna, seeking a declaration that the Bishop, secretary and treasurer of the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India constitute the American Ceylon Mission and for a permanent injunction restraining the breakaway group from exercising any power or authority of the ACM and from using its name.
The Supreme Court having perused the facts of the case and the contents of the letter dated 12/5/2008 addressed to it by the District Judge of Jaffna, came to this finding and stated further that the District Judge has misled himself into sending the case being inquired into by him to the Supreme Court at this stage of the inquiry.
The Court was also of the view that there was no question whatsoever that arises for the interpretation of the (Sri Lankan) Constitution at this stage of the inquiry. All counsel appearing in this case expressed their agreement to the order made by Court.
The Bench comprising Justices Shiranee Tillakawardene, K. Sripavan and P.A. Ratnayake also directed the Registrar of the Court to send the record back to the original Court forthwith for proceedings to proceed expeditiously.
An enjoining order was issued by the District Court accordingly in terms of the prayer for permanent injunction. Earlier, whilst the trial was in progress the District Judge having converted the enjoining order into an interim injunction, sent the case record and all connected documents to the Supreme Court seeking an interpretation of the (Sri Lankan) Constitution and for certain action/orders in respect of matters that transpired in the course of the trial.
K. Kanag-Iswaran P.C and Viran Corea appeared for the new Bishop, Shibly Aziz P.C with A.P. Niles appeared for the breakaway group.