14 June, 2024


Justice Delayed But Not Denied! 

By Rashmika Ranasinghe

The Supreme Court in a landmark judgment delivered on Wednesday upheld freedom of press by ruling out that the State-run Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation had infringed inter alia the right to expression with the abrupt termination and censorship of the popular talk programmeIra Anduru Pata on 8 November 2008. 

Delivering its historic ruling in a case which was heard for over 13 years, the Supreme Court held in two connected cases – SC FR Application 556 and 557/2008, that fundamental rights of a media professional – Colombo Telegraph Editor and Convenor of the Free Media Movement (at the time)  – Uvindu Kurukulasuriya (First Petitioner) and a viewer – J. K. W. Jayasekara (Second Petitioner) guaranteed under Articles 10, 12(1), 12(2), 14(1), 14(1)(a) of the Constitution were infringed and ordered State to pay compensation. 

Criticism of the President 

The ruling could be said to be one of the few judgments that analyzed speech that was critical of the President i.e. then President Mahinda Rajapaksa. 

“In the present case, the Petitioner Kurukulasuriya criticized the then incumbent President, a person holding public office, at a forum telecasted by the Rupavahini Channel. In my view the Petitioner, in the exercise of freedom of speech and expression, was making a legitimate criticism of a public figure. The Petitioner did not denigrate the President in harsh words or resort to malicious comments about the President. I am of the view, that his criticism of the President was neither character assassination nor defamatory.”

“Accordingly, I cannot agree with the Respondents’ contention that a speech should be censored purely for being political. I do not think that all political speeches should be shunned and censored…. The Constitution of Sri Lanka only curtails free speech to maintain racial and religious harmony, parliamentary privilege, to avoid contempt of court and defamation or to avoid incitement to an Offence. The nature of the expression being political is certainly not a criterion recognized in the Constitution to limit freedom of expression,” the ruling spelt out. 

“If every speech which points out the shortcomings of an incumbent government or politicians were to be interpreted as being a political speech and censored, no legitimate criticism which could promote better governance would ever be made.”

This is likely the first instance in Sri Lanka where interference by the State into a telecast of a TV channel programme ( i.e. the abrupt termination and/or censoring of the programme ‘Ira Anduru Pata’) in which First  Petitioner Kurukulasuriya  was appearing as a panelist, was held to be unconstitutional by the three judge bench comprising Justices Buwaneka Aluwihare, Priyantha Jayawardena and L. T. B. Dehideniya. The particular episode of the programme in question was televised on the ‘Rupavahini Channel’ of the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation on 4 November 2008. The Court granted leave to proceed for the infringement of Articles 12(1) and 14(1)(a) of the Constitution.

Citing Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure (1604) Act 2, Scene 1. President Justice Buwaneka Aluwihare stated that “We must not make a scarecrow of the law, setting it up to fear the birds of prey, and let it keep one shape till custom make it their perch and not their terror!” 

The Petitioner Jayasekara  in connected petition SC FR Application 557/2008 was a viewer of the same programme ‘Ira Anduru Pata’ who complained that the decision of the Respondents to abruptly stop and/or censor the televising of that particular episode of the programme on  4 November 2008 was an infringement of his fundamental rights under the Articles 10, 12(1), 12(2) and 14(1)(a) of the Constitution. The Petitioner was granted leave to proceed for the alleged infringement of Articles 10 and 12(1) of
the Constitution. 

With the consent of the learned Counsel representing the Petitioners and the Respondents, both applications were taken up for argument together. Combined written submissions were filed on behalf of the Respondents in both applications.

Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation was named the First Respondent whilst then SLRC Chairman and Director General Dr. Ariyratne Ethugala (Second), Lakshman Muthuthantri, Programme Producer, (Third) Minister of Mass Media and Information Anura Priyadarshana Yapa  (Fourth) were also cited as the other Respondents.  

With the 2015 change of government then Chairperson Ms. Enokaa Sathyangani and Director General Thusira Malawwethantri, then Minister of Finance and Mass Media Information, Mangala Samaraweera were added whilst the incumbent Chairman & the Director-General Sarath Kongahage and  incumbent Minister of Mass Media and Information Keheliya Rambukwella were also added as new Respondents.

Independent panelist ?

The Petitioner Kurukulasuriya  maintained that he was informed that the discussion would be  televised live on the ‘Rupavahini Channel’ for a duration of one and a half hours from 10.30 pm until 12 midnight on the 4 November 2008 to discuss the ‘Private Television Broadcasting Station Regulations of 2007’. He had also been informed that the viewers would be allowed to direct questions to the panelists via telephone calls during the telecast. The Petitioner averred that he accepted the invitation to participate in the programme representing the ‘Free Media Movement’. The Petitioner had been informed that the other two panelists would be Charitha Herath, Senior Lecturer of the Department of Philosophy of the University of Peradeniya and an advisor to the Ministry of Media and Telecommunication, and Dhamma Dissanayake, a Senior Lecturer of the University of Colombo and a Director of the Sri Lanka Foundation.

However, the Respondents disputed this assertion and state that the Petitioner was invited as an independent  panelist and not as a representative of the ‘Free Media Movement’ or any other non-governmental organization.

On the 4 November 2008 the programme commenced as scheduled, at 10.30 pm with the presenter of the programme, Chaminda Gunaratne, an employee of the SLRC introducing the panelists and the topic for discussion. The Petitioner  avers that prior to the commencement of the programme it had been decided that  in each round, the other two panelists would comment on the topic which would be followed by the Petitioner’s response, thereby allowing each panelist to express his viewpoint, for about 5 to 10 minutes in every round and the panelists were expected to express their views freely, discussing the sociopolitical aspects and the adverse implications of introducing the Regulations (i.e. ‘Private Television Broadcasting Station Regulations of 2007’) as appearing in the Gazette. 

The Respondents state that prior to the commencement of the programme they were  briefed on the topic and the parameters of the discussion as well as the limitations applicable. According to the Respondents, the participants were specifically requested to strictly limit their presentations to the topic, refrain from obstructing the other panelists, refrain from engaging in personal attacks on the characters of individuals and to avoid making defamatory statements, or any statements that would make the SLRC and its employees, liable for contempt of court and to avoid reference to any proceedings pending before a court of law, to all of which they had agreed. 

During the course of the programme it had been interrupted only once for a very brief commercial break at 11.00 pm to convey the time. Thereafter around 11.14 pm, after a lapse of approximately 45 minutes from the commencement of the programme the discussion was interrupted and the programme interrupted by a commercial break with the presenter stating; “If issues arise in the society, we must deliberate as to how solutions can be found to resolve those problems.”

The Respondents claim that during the first round of discussion the Petitioner deviated from the guidelines of the programme and made a political speech alleging that the media was exercising self-restraint and referred to a court case pending against a journalist under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and averred that the Petitioner had also disturbed the presentations of the other panelists. The Petitioner on the other hand, denied this claim and states that he abided by the instructions.

Following the commercial break, the programme did not recommence although the presenter and the panelists were present in the studio. Instead, a series of advertisements were televised followed by a number of songs. The Third Respondent Producer had thereafter come to the studio and said that he was facing a difficulty in continuing with the programme. Upon inquiry he had intimated that when the commercial break was taken the line had been transferred to the Main Control Room which is under the direct control of the Respondent Chairman / DG and that the line had not been transferred to the studio room to continue the programme. Shortly thereafter, he had informed them, that the programme could not be continued as it had been stopped by the authorities. According to the Petitioner the 3rd Respondent Producer had stated that, the programme could only have been stopped on the instructions of the Second Respondent Chairman / DG.

The Respondents took up the position that, once the telecasting of the programme had commenced, the Chairman had received several telephone calls querying as to why his Corporation had permitted a Petitioner who had challenged the validity of the Private Television Broadcasting Station Regulations of 2007 by way of a Fundamental Rights Application, to appear on National Television and refer to matters which were the subject of a case pending before the Supreme Court to which he responded that at that point he sought the advice of the legal adviser of the Respondent Corporation, Attorney-at-Law Jayantha De Silva and realized that it was not proper to discuss any matter which is pending before a court of law on live television.

The legal advisor had then, via telephone, notified the Chairman that the court reporters had confirmed that the Petitioner and several others had filed Fundamental Rights Applications challenging the Regulations under discussion and the matter had been fixed for support on 5, 6 or 14 November 2008 and averred that since the matter is accordingly sub judice, it would be inappropriate to discuss the same on live television as any inappropriate statement made by the panelists would make the entire Board of Directors liable to face contempt of court proceedings. 

Respondents claim that the Chairman had reasons to believe that the Petitioner intended to embarrass the management of the  Respondent Corporation since the Petitioner had ‘suppressed’ the fact that he had litigated on the very topic he was invited to discuss. In view of such apprehensions, the Second Respondent, as the Chairman of the Board of Directors and the Director General, had immediately directed the Third Respondent Producer to terminate the programme and informed the Main Control Room of his decision. 

Petitioner Kurukulasuriya on the other hand has flatly refuting the claim in his counter affidavit states that, he had revealed his intention to challenge the regulations at a stakeholder meeting convened by the Minister of Mass Media and Information, on 4 November 2008, two days prior to the filing of the application. Petitioner argued that the Chairman and the panelist Charitha Herath, who were attendees at that meeting, were fully aware of the pending litigation, and that in any event, the fact that a case was pending in court should not prevent a broadcaster from debating issues of public importance.

The Petitioner argues that the justification offered for the termination of the programme should be rejected for several reasons. The contemporaneous recordings regarding the manner and reasons for stopping a programme midway are generally compiled by the Production Division but no such document has been produced by the Respondents for the perusal by the court. Even though the Petitioner repeatedly inquired the reason for stopping the programme neither he, nor the other panelists, had been informed of any reasons by the officials of the  Respondent Corporation. The Petitioner refuting the contents of the affidavits submitted by the Legal Consultant of the SLRC and the 3rd Respondent respectively, and claimed that, in the case of the latter affidavit, the 3rd Respondent was well aware of the pending litigation at the time of inviting him to participate in the discussion. 

However Respondents in turn argued that the Petitioner was only an invitee and that the 1st Respondent Corporation was at liberty to revoke the invitation at its discretion, further contending that neither the Petitioner nor any citizen has the absolute right to demand an opportunity to express his or her views or make speeches on National Television.

The Second Petitioner Jayasekera told Court that he had waited in anticipation to participate in the programme by raising questions and expressing his views, when the programme was interrupted by a commercial break. When the programme did not recommence after the commercial break as is the usual practice, the Petitioner had called the SLRC general number i.e. 0112-599 506 and queried whether the programme for the day had been stopped. The receptionist had given the Petitioner another number and requested him to clarify the matter with the ‘Producing Section’. The Petitioner had not been successful in contacting the ‘Producing Section’ as no one had answered the call. The Petitioner had then reverted to the receptionist who had informed him that they were unable to provide further assistance regarding the discontinuation of the programme. Around 11.45 pm the Petitioner had managed to contact Uvindu Kurukulasuriya, the Petitioner in Application 556/2008 over the phone who had then confirmed that the programme for that particular day had been terminated by the SLRC.

The Court stated in its analysis that it is evident that paragraph 2 of the Respondents’ Statement of Objections, where they deny that the programme was scheduled to be telecasted for a period of one and a half hours and that there would be telephone calls from viewers, does not appear to be correct.

“Respondents have alleged that during the first round of the discussion the Petitioner deviated from the topic of discussion by making political speeches, alleging that the Media was subject to self-censorship, and referring to a pending court case against a journalist detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Having viewed the recording of the programme, I observe that the Petitioner did in fact make those statements; namely that Sri Lanka’s global ranking in media freedom has fallen from 52 to 165, journalists had been murdered and kidnapped under the incumbent government, journalists who wrote security analyses had been assaulted or threatened, there was a self-imposed censorship in the whole media sector, these regulations were being introduced during the tenure of a president who used to be a friend of the media, and that a journalist was being detained for more than 100 days without a hearing.”

Political speech

“The judgments of the Supreme Court constitute a body of jurisprudence that has evolved over the years, and the Supreme Court has recognized that the right to comment on public issues and criticize public officials and public institutions is essential for the exercise of civil and political freedoms so valued by democratic society (See Joseph Perera v. The Attorney General (1992) 1 Sri LR 199; Amaratunga v. Sirimal and Others (1993) 1 Sri LR 264; Wijeratne v. Vijitha Perera, Sub-Inspector of Police, Polonnaruwa and Others (2002) 3 SLR 319; Deshapriya and Another v. Municipal Council Nuwara Eliya and Others (1995) 1 Sri LR 362; Dissanayake v. University of Sri Jayawardenapura (1986) 2 SLR 254; Sunila Abeysekara v. Ariya Rubasinghe, Competent Authority and Others (2000) 1 SLR 314). This view was succinctly expressed in Deshapriya and Another v. Municipal Council Nuwara Eliya and Others (supra); 

“The right to support or to criticise governments and political parties, policies and programmes is fundamental to the democratic way of life; …and democracy requires not merely that dissent be tolerated, but that it be encouraged (De Jonge v. Oregon, Amaratunga v. Sirimal, Wijeratne v. Perera and Pieris v. A. G. (s).” (at page 370)and thus, in Amaratunga v. Sirimal (supra);“Criticism of the Government, and of political parties and policies, is per se, a permissible exercise of the freedom of speech and expression under Article14 (1)(a).” (at page 271)”

The judgment referred to the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights on the right to freedom of expression is mainly concerned with whether there has been an interference with the right and whether such interference can be justified. It is useful as a source of persuasive guidance in Sri Lanka in determining the parameters within which permissible interference on the freedom of expression can be justified. The European Court of Human Rights in its noteworthy decision in Lingens v. Austria (8 July 1986, Series A No. 103) provided a guideline for ‘acceptable criticism’. The matter in issue was whether the confiscation of two articles written by an Austrian journalist and the imposition of a fine on him for accusing the retiring Chancellor of supporting a former Nazi to engage in the country’s politics, was a restriction of the Freedom of Expression recognized in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. At paragraph 42 of the judgment, it was stated that while the press should respect the entitlement to the protection of reputation which extends to all persons, the ‘limits of acceptable criticism’ were wider regarding politicians in order to allow the freedom of political debate necessary in a democratic society and to afford “the public one of the best means of discovering and forming an opinion of the ideas and attitudes of political leaders.” In Ceylan v. Turkey (8 July 1999, Reports 1999-IV) the European Court held that “the limits of permissible criticism are wider with regard to government than in relation to a private citizen or even a politician”

Sub judice 

“Sub judice is a legal safeguard and media institutions should not be allowed to use a safeguard as a cloak to stifle the citizen’s right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution. Sub judice is not meant for justifying autocratic and stifling conduct relating to freedom of expression. These safeguards are for the purpose of creating an equal marketplace of ideas with minimal risk of polarization. Preventing views that are either disagreeable or disadvantageous to the broadcaster or the agenda that they seek to further, from reaching the public , impinges on the citizen’s entitlement to exercise freedom of expression. Although the Supreme Court’s power to strike down acts or omissions that may lead to the infringement of fundamental rights is expressly with regard to executive or administrative action, the courts as an organ of government is mandated by Article 4(d) of the Constitution to respect, secure and advance fundamental rights declared and recognized by the Constitution. Therefore, I have no hesitation in observing that it is not desirable for even a semi-private body to be allowed to make inroads into fundamental rights, in the absence of express prohibitions…”

“The Petitioner Kurukulasuriya did not speak of anything that would materially interfere with the judicial proceedings in the particular criminal case or, criticize the court. He merely alluded to the factual situation regarding the detention of the said journalist. The Petitioner stated that the journalist was detained for writing two articles, to highlight the regime abusing provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. That statement could hardly influence public opinion and have a material impact on the outcome of the case. Therefore, it would be an overreaction to say that the Petitioner made a statement that would be held in contempt. “

Fundamental Rights applications pivot on the application of the law and judges, are in general immune to material in the public domain that may create bias. Therefore, even though the main subject matter of the programme i. e. the regulations, relates to the Fundamental Rights application filed by the Petitioner, the concern of sub judice is minimal. The Respondents have submitted that the decision in Re Garumunige Tilakaratne (1999)1 SLR 134 provides justification for the Respondents to take an extra cautionary approach and discontinue the programme. In the said case, it was held that a news reporter who reported a speech by a politician in which comments were made prejudging the outcome of an election petition had committed contempt of court for ‘causing the publication’ of the speech. However, no punishment was imposed on the reporter by the court which observed “that Contempt of Court is an offence purely sui generis and one that is vaguely defined; and taking account of the fact that the cognizance of the offence involves in this case an exceptional interference with the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression, including publication….and considering the fact that the respondent did not have the consequences of his act as a conscious object of his conduct; and considering that, although as a reporter he had duties and responsibilities, yet his role in the publication was a comparatively subordinate one,…”  

The approach with regard to the application of Article 14(1)(a) and the limitations that apply, cannot be uniform and the considerations as to its application should necessarily vary, taking into account the type of the media that it concerns, be it print, radio or television. The reason being that, in the case of the print media, it may allow the writer or the editor a comparatively wider margin of time and the degree of authority in controlling the content of a particular news item or column. The same may not be available to a producer or a broadcaster of a live television programme. Therefore, the court’s reasoning in Re Garumunige Tilakaratne (supra) that the reporter of the offending news item should be held liable for sub judice for reporting the news item, cannot be applied to the instant application as the former was a newspaper, whereas the instant application is concerned with a live television programme where speakers were invited to express their own views in a discussion which was simultaneously being telecast to the public.

As Shakespeare put it, “We must not make a scarecrow of the law, setting it up to fear the birds of prey, and let it keep one shape till custom make it their perch and not their terror.” (Measure for Measure (1604) Act 2, Scene 1.)

Infringement of Article 14(1)(a) – Freedom of speech and expression including publication

Holding that Article 15(1)(a) of the Petitioners were infringed the Supreme Court stated the following :-

“It becomes evident from the above cited precedent and statutory obligations that neither the Respondent Corporation nor the other Respondents can lawfully abridge the right of the Petitioner to present a view that is not flattering to the government that controls the SLRC especially where it is in the interest of the public to know the state of media freedom in the country. The Respondents’ argument that there is no positive duty cast on the Respondents to provide a forum for the Petitioner to exercise his fundamental right of speech and expression does not apply here due to airwaves being public property and attracting a higher standard of duty as well as due to the statutory obligation imposed on the 1stRespondent, by the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation Act No. 6 of 1982.”

“The discontinuation of the programme, therefore, in my view, amounts to an infringement of the exercise of Article 14(1)(a) of the Petitioner Kurukulasuriya. The Petitioner has alleged that no reasons were given for the discontinuation of the programme even after he inquired about it, and the Respondents have not contested this allegation. It is curious that the 3rd Respondent nor any other employee of the SLRC had not inquired from the Petitioner about the case filed by him after it became known that he had filed such a case. Failure to divulge to the petitioner that his own past record had been the reason for discontinuing the programme hints of a lack of bona fides on the part of the Respondents. The admission of the Respondent Chairman that he had received several telephone calls questioning why the Petitioner Kurukulasuriya was allowed to appear on National Television and present a case, gives rise to the suspicion that the 2nd Respondent’s decision was influenced by those who found his views unpalatable. It appears that the Respondents have used sub judice as a cover to evade responsibility for circumscribing the Petitioner’s freedom of speech and expression.”

“The lack of credibility in the version of the Respondents, together with their conduct in abruptly discontinuing the programme without informing the Petitioner Kurukulasuriya the reason for such a drastic step, reflects of an imperious attitude on the part of the Respondents, that they have absolute discretion and control over views that are telecasted through the television channel that they are steering. Media institutions certainly should be given discretion to curate their programmes, but such discretion must be exercised within the objectives and parameters set out in the law referred to earlier. Media institutions must curate their programmes to include all views and cater to all citizens equally without manipulating the leverage they have over public opinion. Unfortunately, attitudes that shun media ethics and legal obligations appear to  influence the conduct of many of the Sri Lankan media institutions, whether state-
owned or private.”

Infringement of Article 10 – Freedom of thought, conscience and religion 

“Leave to proceed was granted to the Petitioner in application 557/2008 for the alleged infringement of Article 10. By virtue of Article 10 every person, regardless of whether they are a citizen or not, is entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice. Article 10 is an absolute right without any constitutionally recognized restrictions or fetters. ”

“The Petitioner Jayasekara’s contention that, the presenter (of the programme) specifically stated that viewers can ask questions on matters pertaining to the regulations in discussion is correct, as evidenced by the recording of the programme submitted by the Petitioner Kurakulasuriya. About two minutes from the commencement of the programme, the presenter can be heard announcing that viewers can express their views or ask questions.”

“I am unable to agree with the argument of the Respondents that the mere desire to participate, is insufficient to clothe the Petitioner Jayasekera with the character of a participatory listener. Even though the Respondents point out that the Petitioner had called the SLRC only after the programme was discontinued, it appears that, in spite of announcing that the viewers can phone in, a telephone number for the public to communicate was not immediately announced. This might have been with the expectation of opening the telephone lines to the viewers at a later round of the discussion. I am of the view that, by being a viewer of a programme with a participatory component via telephone, the Petitioner Jayasekera becomes a participatory viewer. Even though every viewer of the programme may not have had the intention of making use of the phone-in component, the fact that the invitation to phone-in is extended in general to all viewers who may at any time during the programme decide to avail themselves of it, makes every viewer a participatory viewer. To my mind, categorization of the viewer ought to be based on the nature of the programme, rather than on whether the viewer intended to actually participate or not.” 

“Having disposed of that concern, I would now make a distinction between the Petitioner’s entitlement to gain the information that was being disseminated through the television programme, and being given the opportunity to phone-in and raise any questions he may have in relation to the topic of discussion or express his opinion in relation to the topic. At the outset, it must be accepted that the ability of a viewer to join a programme via a telephone call is subject to the overriding discretion of the producers of the programme. The limited time allocated for the phone-in component necessarily has to be counterbalanced with the number of phone calls they may receive. The producers may be further required to restrict certain phone calls and give priority to others, in order, inter alia, to avoid duplication of questions or opinions, to provide a value-addition to the discussion and to confine the programme to the prior-agreed bounds.”

“On the other hand, the right of the Petitioner as a viewer to gain information from the programme, in the instant circumstances, cannot also be ignored. The programme itself was a weekly panel discussion which sought to place before the public the various aspects of a chosen topic – in the present case the media regulations that were to be introduced by the government- through speakers comprising of various stakeholders or experts. The purpose of the programme was to impart information to the public and enlighten them as suggested by even the title of the programme ‘Ira Anduru Pata’. Furthermore, the public had an interest in learning about the regulations, especially those like the Petitioner whose choice of a programme could be curtailed by the regulations. The views expressed in the programme could have aided the Petitioner to form an opinion about the regulations and would likely have provided the clarifications he needed on any issues as to the proposed regulations. The ability to form and hold an opinion on regulations that would have an impact on oneself is, to say the least, a characteristic of the democratic way of life. ”

“It is in the backdrop of the afore-stated, that one ought to consider as to whether the conduct of the Respondents in abruptly terminating the programme, has infringed the Petitioner Jayasekera’s fundamental right of ‘freedom of thought’ enshrined in Article 10 of the Constitution.”

Infringement of Article 12(1) – Entitlement to equality before the law and the equal protection of the law

“In the present Applications, the discontinuation of the programme affected the Petitioner Kurukulasuriya as well as the other panelists who were appearing in the programme alike, by preventing them from expressing their views. In the case of Petitioner Jayasekara the discontinuation of the programme for the day affected the Petitioner along with all the other participatory viewers of the programme in that they were unable to receive the information they sought by watching theprogramme and even if they wished so, they were unable to make use of the phone-in component. Thereby it is clear that the Petitioners’ entitlement to equality before the law and the equal protection of the law was derogated from. The law (Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation Act No. 6 of 1982) requires the SLRC to maintain high standards in its programmes in the public interest [Section 7 (1)(a)] and the SLRC is under a duty to maintain a balance in the subject matter[Section 7(2) (a)] and to ensure that news given in whatever form is presented with due accuracy, impartially and with due regard to the public interest [Section7 (2) (c)]. The decision- without any legitimate reason for doing so- to discontinue the programme for the day, without offering any reasons for such discontinuation and without informing the viewers of the discontinuation of the programme is arbitrary and mala fide. Therefore, I hold that the rights of both Petitioners under Article 12(1) have been infringed.”


In considering compensation the three member bench said “the First Respondent, SLRC being a state corporation, the question of whether the State should be ordered to pay compensation needs to be dealt with. There is no question that the State is responsible for safeguarding fundamental rights, and the ordering of compensation should depend on the circumstances particular to each case, keeping in mind that the State coffers should not be emptied haphazardly because the State pays out from the tax-payers money. ”

“I am of the view that it is just and equitable to make order, directing the State to pay the two Petitioners [FR Applications 556 and 557] Rs.30,000 each and I also direct the 2nd Respondent to pay each of the Petitioners in the said Applications,Rs.50,000 as compensation.”

President’s Counsel J. C. Weliamuna,  with Pasindu Silva appeared for the Petitioners while President’s Counsel  Geoffrey Alagaratnam  with Lasantha Garusinghe appeared for the First Respondent Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation while Nerin Pulle DSG with Nirmalan Wigneswaran, SSC appeared for Attorney General.

*To read the full text of the Supreme Court judgment click here

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Latest comments

  • 6

    Congratulations Uvindu, a well deserved win to you and to freedom of speech. Great judgement.

  • 6

    Hope this judgement augurs well for the future where the Courts will exercise powers very independently according to established Law. Let it not be later said “One swallow does not a summer make”. ..Shakespeare.

  • 3



    Can you help us take the FP/TC/TULF to court for all their thuggery and the killing fields in Jaffna from 1970-1977-1981 please?

    • 0

      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

      For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

      • 3

        Brilliant. Justice delayed but is finally delivered. Keep up the moderation.

    • 1

      Can you help us to take those who were the architects of communal riots against the Tamils in 1956,1958, 1961 ,1977, 1983 and there after the mas murder of Tamils in Mullivaiakal.?

  • 4

    Oh .Now courts are good and all right because your got your way. Otherwise courts be damned. Ain’t it Colombo Terrorgraph ?

    • 4

      It is not a question of “because you got your way” but rather the well reasoned judgement when there were may instances of courts issuing judgement but no reasons reasonably written out like here, that is appreciated. Far cry from Sarath N S and Mohan Pieris days.
      Yes in a way you might say “because your got your way.” because such judgements against the Establishment are so few and seldom realized. So this is like a shower after a drought – a celebration indeed.

  • 13

    Good decision. At the same time I also wonder if this decision was due to forthcoming UNHCR resolution? Point to ponder!

    • 10

      Funny things do happen close to UNHRC sessions. It wont surprise me if someone said that they saw a kangaroo walk.

      • 2


        If you have a way to predict the verdict, then there is no point in a petitioner arguing the case. If you say that government made this coincided with Geneva meeting, that way there won’t be any inducement to challenge the government’s anti-media policies. You have a point – that is Lankawe Courts verdicts are predictable. But you are looking though only by court side. From petitioner side, it is still a victory, even if petitioner had anticipated the UNHRC meeting. “Tani Maram Thoppakkathu” – A lonely tree doesn’t constitute a forest. HRC HC said she cannot depend on the Special Presidential commission appointed by King. So we leave that matter there and come to the case and recognize the victory. (I don’t understand Sinhala; so my opinion is based on the above report)

    • 1

      Buddhist1: “…..wonder if this decision was due to forthcoming UNHCR resolution?”. This is being discussed in S/L. Apart from the “Truth” of the matter, that “Expression” and “Questioning” indicate the “Disbelief”, “Suspicion”, “Disrespect” and “No Faith” on the “Judiciary” and the “Judges” who administer the “Legal System”. This is very “Unfortunate” in a Democra

  • 11

    Probably this is a showcase outcome to show the world that Judiciary is independent and Rajapkse’s have no influence in court decision. Rs. 30000 and Rs. 50000 is nothing for Rajapkse’s.

  • 7

    Congratulation CT for standing for the principle and wining.

  • 7

    Uvindu Kurukulasuriya stands vindicated. Does this prove that justice prevails in Sri Lanka. Not by a long stretch.

  • 5

    Unless Sri Lanka becomes Marxist or a Caliphate, there will always be free speech in some form or another. Buddhism encourages free thought, not blind adherence to ideology.

  • 6

    The wheels of justice move so interminably slowly, but creak they did, today, with a whimper and squeek. The times are such that we have learnt to be appreciative of evidence-based verdicts.

    This however, is a low-risk verdict by the judiciary, who have of late, shown a flagrant preference to standing with the “Rajapaksa Unlimited” project, and showing scant regard for evidence and the law. Try doing something more courageous like pouncing on those who would persecute heroes like Shani A and Ranjan R, and then let’s talk.

    The Honourable Justices, should know that Sri Lanka has looked to them as the last bastion of hope, when it comes to seeking redress from all things unjust; and they have mightily disappointed us. Need one point out the long string of injustices dealt us by SNS and MP, two of the greatest exponents of injustice in the past little while?

    • 5

      Yes indeed. It was SNS who by weird reasoning allowed MPs to cross over with impunity against the right of voters who elected him/her on a party manifesto. This has opened the floodgates to bribery and corruption of MPs and will always be a threat to the voters franchise.

  • 1

    Yes indeed. It was SNS who by weird reasoning allowed MPs to cross over with impunity against the right of voters who elected him/her on a party manifesto. This has opened the floodgates to bribery and corruption of MPs and will always be a threat to the voters franchise.

  • 3

    The case was filed 13 years ago and barely a week before the opening sessions of the UNHRC, Judgement has been delivered by our Supreme Court; And that too ,of all people, in favour of Uvindu Editor of our regular pastime Colombo Telegraph. Even Shakespeare has been quoted by one of the Judges, Elevated to the Bench by MaRa overlooking another Judge who ruled in favour of EX: CJ Shiranee Bandaranayake in that notorious Impeachment trial.

    Too good to be true; Cutting it fine eh?
    Yes, in that sense it is a landmark Judgement!

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