Stay order till July 20 on Jaffna Magistrate


The Court of Appeal issued a stay order preventing the Jaffna Magistrate from taking any action against the ‘Uthayan’ newspaper Editor for publishing a report regarding an apology said to have been made by the Magistrate.
Petitioner T. Premanath citing Magistrate Manikkavasagar Ganesharajah as respondent alleged that when a case to prohibit a protest by some residents against the alleged unlawful method of land grabbing by the Security Forces was taken up on June 27, a newspaper quoting Mr. Sumanthiran published an article saying that only the District Court and not a magistrate was entitled to issue an order preventing a protest from taking place.

The petitioner was informed by a reliable source that though Mr. Sumanthiran had not mentioned any thing in Parliament about a District Court, the respondent had no authority to criticise in open court a speech made in Parliament. Further the petitioner states that after confirming that the magistrate on hearing the submissions of Mr. Sumanthiran in Parliament had apologised to the MP, he published an article in the ‘Uthayan’ newspaper on June 28.The respondent magistrate by letter delivered through the Registrar of the Court on June 28 to the petitioner requested him to be present in Court the next day at 9 a.m. to provide an explanation concerning the article published.
The petitioner said that during the proceedings the respondent said he had never apologised to anyone and has no intention to do so in the near future and berated him for publishing such an article. He further states that he was directed by the respondent to make an apology in open court to which the petitioner agreed.

The petitioners lawyer Ms. S Abimanasingham informed court that as the petitioner agreed she considered the matter to have come to an end and left the court premises.The petitioner claims that he witnessed a group of lawyers who was present talking to the respondent and alleged they were trying to dictate the form of apology that should be tendered. He was then directed by the Magistrate to tender an apology in open court instantly of his own accord and not as directed by court.

The petitioner was asked to face the public and tender an apology for publishing the article stating that the magistrate had apologized to Mr. Sumanthiran.The magistrate then questioned him to divulge the source of the informant which he refused as it was his obligation to protect confidential sources of information according to the Code of Professional Practice (code of ethics) of the Editors of Sri Lanka adopted by the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka.

The Bench of the Court of Appeal comprising Justice S. Sri Skandarajah (President) and Deepali Wijesundara issued the stay order till July 20. K. Kanag Iswaran, PC., with Viran Corea and Niran Anketell appeared for the petitioner.

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