‘Lawyers for Democracy’ condemns and expresses its deep concern at the action taken by the President in pardoning Ven. Galagoda Atte Gnanasara Thero who was convicted after trial for contempt of Court by the Court of Appeal. His application to the Supreme Court for Leave to Appeal against the conviction was also dismissed. The charge against the convict was not an ordinary charge of contempt of Court but a serious charge that charge that he went up to the well of the Court in protested when the Magistrate refused to release on bail the suspects in the Ekneligoda murder case. It was alleged that he abused in uncivilized language the wife of deceased Ekneligoda who was in the Court Room and even shouted to the State Counsel. The main witness at the inquiry before the Court of Appeal was the Magistrate himself.
Therefore it is clear that it was not an ordinary contempt of Court charge, but a charge based on the uncivilized and high handed behavior challenging the authority of Court.
Under Article 34 of our constitution the President is vested with the power to pardon any offender convicted of any offence in any court. Such an important discretionary power is vested in an authority with the trust that the authority will use this power only for the purpose for which this power is vested in the authority and it will not be used for collateral purposes.
The release of the convict after serving just a few months out of the sentence of six years imprisonment that was imposed on the convict and which was endorsed by the Supreme Court is in fact an insult to the Judiciary and an action in contempt of the Judiciary. The action of the President is perhaps the most serious act if contempt of Court committed in the history of our judicial system.
The power to grant the pardon to an offender is conferred on the Head of State under many constitutions in the world but taking into consideration the political culture of our society demonstrated in recent times, where conventions and traditions are not respected, it is appropriate to consider whether such a power should continue to be vested on the President in our constitution.
‘Lawyers for Democracy’
J C Weliamuna PC
K S Ratnavele