On Thursday 14.12.2017, Magistrate Mohammed S.M. Samsuddin of Mullaitivu declared Prof. S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole of the Election Commission not guilty of the offence of speeding on 26.06.2017 at 80 kmph where the limit was 70 mph.
According to the court records of case no. 23388 and eye-witness testimony, the incident occurred on the A9 in the Muruhandy area. Professor Hoole had complained at the Mankulam Police Station having jurisdiction for that area that he had been driving within the speed limit and had been stopped for the purpose of soliciting a bribe.
The case, where Prof. Hoole represented himself, raised several issues of interest. The language of the courts in the North by the Constitution’s Article 24, is Tamil. When the police prosecuted in Sinhalese, Prof. Hoole objected, demanding a trial in Tamil. When the police said they did not know Tamil, Hoole asked them why they came to the North knowing that the official language is Tamil. “Is it to lord it over us?” The judge said Tamils are not joining the police and Hoole’s rejoinder was that Tamils cannot work with such nasty policemen. There was tension as the policemen angrily protested. Finally a policeman translated and Prof. Hoole again objected that the man was helping witnesses by speaking to them in Sinhalese. Judge Samsuddin then assured Prof. Hoole that he would check on the translation.
In cross-examination the sergeant and the constable who did the ticketing admitted that they spoke entirely in Sinhalese during the traffic stop. Asked if they check whether a driver understands them before speaking in Sinhalese, the constable said no but that is how all policemen are. Asked if they care if they are understood by Tamils and whether they see Tamils as cattle and sheep, he did not answer. Prof. Hoole asked rhetorically if it is like in that courtroom where the Court Sergeant shouts at everyone and no one understands him. He also said that the policeman by the accused’s cage had beaten him on the hands for them to be taken off the rails. At this point Hoole asked the judge, “This man thinks it is an insult to court if I have my hands on the rails. Is that so?” The judge, a little taken a back, said “No. You can have your hands there.”
The sergeant had claimed he knew only Sinhalese but his constable spoke Tamil well and that Prof. Hoole had told him he had just bribed a policeman in Mullaitivu and offered Rs. 1000 to him if he would let Hoole go. He added that it is angered by this that Hoole had filed a complaint at the Mankulam police. Asked if his OIC had queried him about it, he said no.
The Constable began testifying in Sinhalese and when Hoole insisted he should testify in the language of court, he claimed not to know much Tamil. He too had not faced questioning. He testified in Sinhalese about the offer of a bribe by Hoole and that the conversation was in Tamil. Asked to repeat the offer of the bribe in the words used by Hoole, he could not. However, the judge said may be he can understand what was said but cannot repeat it. He said the radar was certified by Moratuwa University.
The Constable was then asked for the route from Mullaitivy to Colombo. The answer was through Mankulam or Puliyakulam. The follow up question was how someone going from Mullaitivu to Colombo was caught in Muruhandy. There was no answer.
On the radar machine, Prof. Hoole produced his own electromagnetics textbook by Oxford University Press explaining how radar works and elaborated on ghosting and shadowing errors. The sergeant who ticketed him produced a certificate from Colombo-based ACE certifying to the reliability of the machine for the three months of the date of certificate. The radar ID was not on the machine.
On cross-examination the Constable was asked how, when even goods by world-class companies break down while on warranty, any scientist of decent credentials could say the machine will not breakdown for three months. He produced evidence from the Australian Police and the International Chief of Police Associations, both saying that a radar machine has to be tested before and after a policeman’s shift through calibration to ensure that it was in good order when speed was measured. Because of various errors a recommendation from the Crown Prosecution Services in Canada was produced advising that no one be ticketed unless he was 10% above the speed limit pus 2 mph.
The Judge then asked if there was anything to show that the 80 kmph was measured off the accused’s car and when answered no, he threw up his hands indicating how the verdict would go.
It was the court vacation from the 15th. The Judge was going on transfer from 1 Jan. He was clearing some 250 cases that day. So his “not guilty for lack of evidence” judgement was brief and unfortunately could not address the many interesting issues raised. (By N. Lohahayalan)