2 December, 2020

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Hulftsdorp Shaken; New Judge Creates Stir

The Hulftsdorp court complex witnessed a revolution of some sort following the appointment of Colombo District Judge Frank Gunawardena, with Petitions being filed against him by lawyers the Colombo Telegraph learns.

Supreme_Court_Colombo telegraphJudge Gunawardena has taken the country’s main court complex by storm by being vehemently opposed to lawyers moving for ‘dates’. Instead following his appointment as Colombo District Judge, he has continuously insisted that Lawyers argue and end cases without moving for ‘dates’ on unsubstantiated grounds.

Gunawardena is the most senior District Judge in the country, and was appointed to the Colombo District court following the promotion of former Judge Sujatha Alahapperuma.

Gunawardena has created waves due to his uncompromising style, and novelty in hearing cases, which had been lacking within the Lankan judiciary according to many litigants and senior Lawyers.

However, despite this, the Colombo Telegraph reliably learns that certain lawyers have verbally and in writing complained to the Chief Justice regarding the judge.

Gunawardena has gained a reputation for insisting on speedy conclusion of trials before him and has consistently against written submissions often insisting Lawyers to argue matters in open court.

“He insists on verbally arguing cases which is actually a lawyers job. That was how lawyers argued cases in the Golden Era of the Lankan judiciary until it slowly diluted into written submissions which made lawyers basic journalists” a senior Presidents Counsel told Colombo Telegraph on the condition of anonymity.

The late S.L Gunasekara in his book ‘Lore of the Law and other memories’ specifically called for a reform to the system of Written Submissions and instead insisted on oral argument of cases.

“He told my lawyer that he wants the case heard today. In open court he berated a lawyer who had taken two years to settle issues and said he was disgusted by this practice. After having come to court all these years, it sounded like a breath of fresh air. Earlier either my lawyer or the opposing side would give some reason or the other and move for a date and the judges don’t bat an eyelid when giving a date- leaving us with no hope and high expenses” a litigant told Colombo Telegraph.

The laws delays have been a focal point, with some litigation taking over a decade to conclude in all courts across the island.

Mohan Pieris who was sitting as Chief Justice previously issued strict instructions for the speedy conclusion of cases, however, the continuous dominance of lawyers and adherence to archaic procedure has resulted in the instructions not conformed to.

Gunawardena a career judicial officer has served in many outstation areas prior to his current posting and is known for his uncompromising integrity and the fact that he cannot be intimidated.

According to unverified reports, the Colombo Telegraph learns that Gunawardena was not given his due transfer or promotion due to berating Gotabaya Rajapaksa on the witness stand during the ‘Sunday Leader‘ trial in which the then powerful Rajapaksa was a witness.

Gunawardena had reportedly ordered Rajapaksa to desist from giving irrelavant information and to ensure that he sticks within the bounds of questioning as “he was only a witness in this courtroom”

The Colombo Telegraph learns that many lawyers are opposed to Gunawardena due to his insistence on hearing and concluding cases.

“Lawyers live on dates just like the arabs. They will bring up some archaic and/or nonsensical procedure and are used to being granted dates at the drop of a hat. Moment you have a Judge who wants to hear the case they all get intimidated. Some lawyers come to court only to move for a date not knowing head or tale of the case, but I am told that this man (Gunawardena )doesn’t give in to that kind of rubbish” another senior legal practitioner told Colombo Telegraph upon inquiry.

“A few decades ago a courtroom was a spectacle. Lawyers and the Judges always stood to ensure swift justice. That is why we saw members of the public throng to court houses for trials. It was a clash of intellect, wit and wisdom. Sadly today court houses are a bore and people have lost faith in the system because of two things. The non-independence of judges, and the laws delays. If we have an independent judiciary supplemented with judges and lawyers who want swift and proper justice the court rooms will win back the confidence and trust of the people” he said.

The Colombo Telegraph attempted to persuade the publishing of names of the two Senior Counsel, but they politely insisted on anonymity due to “professional reasons”.

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Latest comments

  • 2
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    By the way the picture and story appears to be unconnected or is Judge Frank
    Jayawardena a look-a-like of Gotabhaya Rajapakse ?

  • 1
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    Like match fixing in cricket, case fixing by lawyers also exist. No one is willing to come forward as a witness in any case and if any dare to do the lawyers harass them to faint to show them like an interested party. Who is lying who is not can be understood if the entire testimony is videographed. The existing old system of handwriting is full of flaws, mostly distorted. Listening to both litigants (syllogic) instead of pursuing bogus documents and quibbling of lawyers the first judgment can be given quickly if not satisfied they can appeal otherwise i.e., the entire appeal system is mockery of justice. To get a judgment 10 yrs, and another decade for the appeal to conclude!

  • 3
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    We need more judges like Judge Frank Gunawardena who will not tolerate any nonsense from unscrupulous/incompetent lawyers. These lawyers who just come to court to ask for adjournments when they should be prepared to proceed with the case should be punished. The problem in Sri Lanka is that there is NO CREDIBLE REGULATORY AUTHORITY, at least to my knowledge, ( can somebody correct me or tell me how a litigant can report a lawyer, say for incompetence, unfairly delaying cases etc) to regulate the lawyers.

    I practice law in England. The English Courts/judges will not tolerate any attempt by a lawyer to delay proceedings. If the lawyer is not prepared/ready to proceed with the case on the due date the judge will appoint another lawyer to deal with it and the ‘deliquent’ lawyer will be reported to the Bar Council or the Solicitors Regulatory Aothority (SRA). He/she thus reported will have the full force of the authority upon him/her to the extend that one may be even disbarred from practice, in an extream case.

    What is required in Sri Lanka is a strict Case Management Routine implemented by the court/s and a very strong Regulatory Authority constituted by legal and non-legal personalities who can act independently to regulate the profession.

    Can I suggest we call this the ATTORNIES’ REGULOTORY AUTHORITHY (ARA) who can regulate the lawyers.

    We ought to have a similar authority to supervise the Magistrate’s and other Senior Judges too. What about an independent Judges Regulatory Authority or a strong JSC. Judges should be held to account for unfairly and unnecessarily delaying the hearing and completion of cases. Similarly, judges should be tough with the prosecuting police authorities/ AG’s department, who come to court unprepared, e.g. No witnesses etc, and continue to ask for adjournments. This is an abuse of the system. The prosecutors should also be subject to punishment. Where In extream situations the cases may be dismissed for want of prosecution.

    If one is to have any faith in an regulatory system the regulators MUST be independent. The panels should consist of both lawyers and non lawyers. Perhaps more non lawyers!

    Hope this sort of routine can be established in Sri Lanka.

    I have read/heard from, time to time, where the President, Ministers etc suggesting that expat professionals help Srilankan authorities with their expertise. This is a classic situations where many Sri Lankan lawyers practicing in England will be delighted to help at NO COST TO THE COUNTRY. Why not ask!

    Good Luck

    Upali De Soyza

  • 1
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    Well done Athi Garu Mate,
    Keep up the good work.No more postponements until next year.BUT THEN THE COUNTRY IS RUN(RUINED)BY A BUNCH OF LAWYERS WHO MAKE MONEY BY LIES PLUS LIES.JUST LOOK AT SRILANGA PARLIMANT.90 PERCENT MUST BE LAWYERS.!!

  • 0
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    In Sri Lanka’s intellectual property act, it is stated the judge can’t dismiss the case for any reason, the victims pay the ‘pseudo’ intellectual to settle out of court, at last when the patent registration is found to be dubious, no compensation paid even after a long trial. To whom the blame goes if the law is flawed?

  • 1
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    Megalomania

  • 2
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    I had the privilege to appear before the Learned District Judge Frank Gunawardene Esqr., few days ago…

  • 1
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    The law is an ass. In Sri Lanka, it has become a demon amongst some lawyers , whose speciality is delaying tactics and also have contact with the underworld for the dirty works,to embaress , humiliate or discourage the other party.

  • 2
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    This is the kind of judges this country badly needed.

    It is the duty of the lawyer to ensure that due his absence for whatever the reasons it may be, that should not result delay in dispense of justice. It is the lawyer’s responsibility to assign the matter to another competent lawyer to proceed with the matter.

    No litigant shall suffer due to the absence of the lawyers in most case for ‘personal reasons’

    This was highlighted by the newly appointed CJ Priyasath Dep today, and he made it absolutely clear that ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ and emphasized the importance of restoring people’s confidence in the justice system.

  • 0
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    Hats off to Judge Gunawardena. My brother and I have been going to courts for the last 8 years re: my father’s last will. It is a straight forward case but still the judges and lawyers have been just moving dates and wasting our money and time. “Case fixing is the correct expression.” To talk about “written submissions” ; it’s a joke. The amount of written submissions we have given is something to laugh at.

    Sri Lankan judicial system does nothing to bring justice to people but making lawyers rich.

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