Magistrates from all parts of the island were left reeling on Friday (13) after the Chief Justice of Sri Lanka and three other Supreme Court judges urged them to rule in favour of the police to curb and ban protests and public gatherings in light of the Covid-19 situation.
Instructions to “use their common sense” to stop demonstrations from Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya and Justices Buvanekha Aluvihare, L.T.B. Dehideniya and Mahinda Samayawardena shocked the magistrates, Colombo Telegraph learns.
The Supreme Court Justices urged the lower court judges to use Sections 98 and 106 of the Criminal Procedure Code to curb protests and gatherings because of the pandemic situation, in a major breach of judicial protocol and a direct assault on the independence of the courts of first instance.
The magistrates were initially threatened into attending the seminar on judicial proceedings during the Covid-19 situation by the Judicial Service Commission as Colombo Telegraph reported earlier. The JSC Secretary Sanjeewa threatened magistrates into attending Friday’s meeting at the Judges Institute, saying their future promotions to the High Court, salary increments and foreign training opportunities.
Magistrates in attendance have told local media speaking anonymously that it was the first time in their judicial careers that they had been given instructions on how to rule in cases that come before them, instead of being allowed to exercise their discretion.
During the meeting, Magistrates were briefed by several health officials, none of whom explained how allowing protests to go ahead were increasing infections.
Magistrates said it was clear at the outset of the seminar that it was aimed solely at pressuring the lower court judges to siding with police officers when they came before their courts seeking orders to ban protests and demonstrations.
Magistrates have ruled abstractly on these requests by police in the recent past, allowing some protests to go ahead while banning others. As if to reinforce the impression that it was the protests that resulted in rising infections rather than the Government’s abysmal handling of the public health crisis, Minister Kanchana Wijesekera tallied the number of protests around the country by various sectors and political factions, arriving at the figure of 847 – a damning indictment against his Government.
The pressure on the magistrates comes amid a huge spike in coronavirus infections and deaths from the virus, even as the Government continues to stick to its guns refusing to put restrictions in place to prevent indoor gatherings and overcrowding public transport. Two weeks ago, the Government reopened all government offices and ended remote working for public servants, just as infections began to spike. Hospitals are inundated and frontline workers are succumbing to the virus, while President Gotabaya Rajapaksa turns a blind eye – callously telling all those over 60 years to “get PCR tests” because there was no way he was going to impose a lockdown to curb the spread of the virus. In a move that defies all logic, the Government has decided to impose curfew between the hours of 10PM and 4AM to “manage” Covid-19. From Tuesday (17) all weddings in the country will be banned, with social media users wondering which influential politician or corporate mogul has offspring getting wed over the next few days. (By Janakie Mediwake)