22 April, 2021

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Fundamental Right Petitions; Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied

By K. Anaga

I refer to the News Item appearing in the press, under the caption “Political speech not a ground on which freedom of expression can be restricted.” It is stated, that the ruling on this case was pending before the Supreme Court for over 13 years. Isn’t it rather baffling?

The article126 section (5) of our constitution states thus: “The Supreme Court shall hear and finally dispose of any petition or reference under this Article within two months of the filing of such petition or the making of such reference”. The delay in giving the verdict is not a few months but over 13 years. This appears to be a clear violation of the constitution and the fundamental rights?

It may be relevant to mention here that a Fundamental Rights case filed is pending approximately for the past 10 years. The irony of it is, that the hearing of this case was ‘apparently’, concluded in June 2016 and the Judgment was reserved.

As there was no signs of Judgment being delivered even after a year, letters were addressed to the Registrar of the Supreme Court, Attorney General, Chief Justices, who were in Service during the time of hearing and the Judicial Service commission. Unfortunately, no response was forthcoming from anybody. Letters regarding the delays were published in the Colombo Telegraph too.

Hence, with the assistance of the office of the Right to Information (RTI) was sought to ascertain the reason for the delay in receiving the verdict. In fairness to the RTI, with its guidance, (to cut the long story short) letters were addressed to the appropriate authorities. After a few communications, a letter was received from the Registrar of Supreme Court that the case has been re-listed for mention on 5/3/20. On the 5th, the case was once again postponed to 24/9/20, as one of the respondents pleaded that they had not been informed in time, and requested additional time. The reason for the delay in receiving the intimation by the said respondent is questionable. Thus, the case was postponed to 3/12/20 with the remark from the bench that the lordship would like to ‘conclude the hearing and write the Judgment during the court vacation in December 2020. But December never came due to Corona. On inquiries made from the Supreme Court Registrars’ office, it is understood that the case will be heard on 8th June 2021.

It may be pertinent to mention that FR case referred to was heard by over 19 Judges three at a time. 

Perhaps, with the recent appointment of additional Judges by His Excellency the President, the saying ‘Judgment delayed is Judgment denied’ may be made redundant?

The purpose of this letter is to stress the importance of the RTI, which seem to be under threat of extinction, due to the intervention of certain interested parties to conceal their activities.

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    Copies of this article should be sent to the representatives of all 47 member countries of the UNHRC.

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