violence to justice
Whither safety of judges, lawyers,
litigants in courts?
By Chris Kamalendran
An alarming rise in violence in
courthouses has placed a big question mark over the administration
of justice and the security of judges, litigants and others visitors
the past two years, as many as 11 incidents of violence targeting
courthouses and judges have been reported with the slaying of High
Court Judge Sarath Ambepitiya and his police security officer in
November last year being the most shocking.
week, violence struck the Embilipitiya Magistrate's Courts when
a grenade was thrown at notorious underworld figure Sujith Wasantha
Kumara alias Army Suranga, an alleged extortionist. Three people
were killed and more than 30 others, including litigants, were injured
in the attack.
Amaratunga, who escaped unhurt though he was just ten feet away
from the blast, told The Sunday Times Suranga was returning to the
cell after his case was heard, when the explosion took place.
than 50 suspects were in the cell while about 500 people were in
an around the courthouse when it happened. I feel the security provided
was inadequate because there were 19 hardcore criminals inside the
cell," the magistrate said.
to the magistrate, security measures have since been intensified.
But, making ad hoc security arrangements always appear to be the
case whenever courthouses and judges are attacked.
and litigants say past incidents such as the Gangodawila court blast,
the killings of suspects in Colombo courts and the arson attacks
on courthouses in Avissawella, Wattala and Matugama have failed
to galvanize the authorities into action and provide adequate security.
arson attacks on courthouses have destroyed files related to more
than 30,000 cases. In another case, an intruder had tried to molest
a female judge in spite of a police guard at her residence.
the killing of Judge Ambepitiya, the Special Task Force has been
tasked with providing security to senior judges. However, STF Chief
Nimal Leuke says the task of providing all the judges with STF security
is not possible because of a dearth of personnel. At present, 14
STF personnel are providing security to a few judges in the Western
Province while about 100 STF officers are being trained for this
litigants and witnesses say that if the government does not provide
adequate security and make courthouses safe for them, the administration
of justice will be under threat.