Litigants turned away as lawyers absent themselves in protest

Attack on Mannar Magistrate’s Court | BASL, Judicial Services Assn., want offenders brought to justice

Thousands of litigants island-wide had been turned away from courts as the lawyers refrained from appearing for cases in protest over the attack on the Mannar Magistrate’s Court by a group of fisher folk last Wednesday.Many litigants were seen leaving the Supreme Court complex in Hulftsdorp, Colombo 13 on Friday morning as the cases were put off for the coming week with the lawyers staying away from courts.

The scene at the Colombo Magistrate Court on Friday. Pic by Mangala Weerasekera

Judges of the Supreme Court did not sit but a number of lawyers were present to get their cases put off.
Supreme Court Registrar Duminda Mudunkotuwa informed the lawyers present that all cases scheduled for Friday had been postponed for the coming Tuesday.

The Supreme Court Registrar said that since the Bar Association had informed that the lawyers would not appear for the cases, the judges did not sit and the cases were put off.However, the Judges of the Court of Appeal sat and the lawyers got their cases postponed for the coming week.
The Registrar of the Colombo High Court has postponed the cases for July 27 and the High Court Judges too did not sit.
The notices were displayed that the cases pending in the Colombo District Courts also have been postponed for various dates with some having being postponed even for next month.

The notice displayed at the main entrance to the Colombo Magistrate’s Courts complex stated that all cases fixed for Friday will be called on Monday.Speaking to the Sunday Times, Bar Association President Wijedasa Rajapaksha PC., said lawyers island wide stayed away from courts as a mark of protest. “It is a hundred percent success,” he said.

The BASL executive committee holding an emergency meeting on Thursday strongly condemned the mob attack on the Mannar Magistrate’s Court and the actions of Rehabilitation Minister Rishard Baduideen who had allegedly subjected the magistrate to questioning and threatened him on Wednesday.

The Executive Committee meeting also decided to initiate contempt of court proceedings against the offenders including the minister ‘to vindicate the, honour, dignity, and respect’ of the judicial officers and the judicial system.
The ex-co decision signed by the BASL President and Secretary Sanjaya Gamage called upon the Attorney General, the IGP and the other law enforcement authorities to bring the offenders to justice.

Police Media spokesman SP Ajith Rohana told the Sunday Times that 14 persons had been arrested in connection with the attack on the court while three Police officers who sustained injuries were being treated at the Mannar Hospital. He added that two Police teams were conducting investigations.

Meanwhile, issuing a media statement the Judicial Services Association of Sri Lanka comprising the district judges and magistrates condemned the attack on the Mannar Magistrate’s Court and called upon the IGP to bring to justice the minister and the other offenders involved in the attack.

The action of the minister and the other offenders amount to a contempt of court and interference with the independence of the judiciary and is an offence under the Constitution, the statement said.The statement noted that according to a complaint to the association the particular minister had threatened that unless the magistrate alters an order delivered by him ‘the whole of Mannar would be angered and would go up in flames.’

The statement added that when the magistrate did not alter his order, just as the minister warned on the previous day, a mob had attacked the courts complex inflicting heavy damage to it. The statement said that after the attack, in another phone call to the Magistrate, the minister had told him that since he did not change his order, the magistrate had to face the consequences. Quoting Judicial Service Commission (JSC) sources, the statement pointed out that the minister had met the JSC secretary in an unsuccessful bid to get the magistrate transferred.

The Association observed that interference with the discharging of duty of a judicial officer was an attack on the independence on the judiciary.
The Labour Tribunal Presidents’ Association too had issued a media statement condemning the attack.

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