By Mohammed Jameel –
It is not long since Mr. M. Ganesharajah assumed duties as District Judge of Trinco. He did not come with a high reputation especially after his attempt wrongfully to punish the Uthayan Editor for Contempt. He was then Magistrate, Jaffna. In that instance, as may be seen from the link provided, the judge tried to bully the Editor into apologizing to him under pain of a contempt charge, and finally the Appeal Court ruled that the petitioner is entitled to the relief he had sought. A writ of certiorari was issued, quashing the Magistrate Ganesharajah’s order to try the editor for contempt. His case was so weak that according to Colombo Telegraph, he sent the Attorney General to court and failed to show up on the last day.
There was also concern over his coming to Trincomalee owing to many women having complained against him in his previous postings in Batticaloa, Mannar and other places where he had been. But not many were too bothered since the judge was high up on the seniority list and, as they expected, would stop blighting the Trincomalee courts soon with a promotion.
There is also one Mr. C. Sugathadasage, an Anuradhapura lawyer practising in Trincomalee. I have rarely seen him mingling with other lawyers in the conference rooms. Every morning he is seen standing at the court entrance as if looking for clients. In recent weeks one George Rajan who was present in court testifies that he saw the judge joining Mr. Sugathadasage in laughing at opposing counsel. Mr. Rajan who is involved in a case before the judge says that he heard Mr. Sugathadasage in open court call Mr. R. Thirukumaranathan, a very senior opposing counsel, Pissu (mad fellow), and as he left the courtroom say for the public gathered at the doorway to hear that Mr. Thirukumaranathan “barks like a dog.” And the usually strict Ganesharajah seems not to notice such breach of professional courtesy, and does not reprimand Mr. Sugathadasage in the least, giving him a long leash that he does not afford others.
A lawyer was of the view that Mr. Sugathadasage is there to inform the government of important cases and that when he appears for a client, the judge’s judgements are skewed because of the influence Mr. Sugathadasage wields with the government. Others cite the case of a young woman lawyer for whom Judge Ganesharajah gave a favourable judgement against Mr. Sugathadasage’s client in open court, and then in his chambers without informing the female lawyer, crossed out his judgement and wrote the opposite. The poor woman is scared to press charges. Was there a transactional cost is what I wonder?
Then last week on 3 March, the President appointed 13 High Court Judges, all Sinhalese, as is his style now. And naturally Ganesharajah is not on the list! Ganesharajah has been on leave since then. Mr. Sugathadasage has also not been seen in court since news of Ganesharajah’s nonappointment was announced. I believe they are in Colombo trying to get Ganesharajah his promotion.
Ganesharajah has not written up his recent judgements. When asked by lawyers for the judgements, the Registrar says they are not available to him because he has no access to the dossiers which are locked up in Ganesharajah’s chambers. People who had adverse rulings early last week have not been able to read what he wrote to see if there are grounds for appeal. A client against whom Mr. Sugathadasage appeared believes it was deliberate to preclude an appeal. Even if Ganesharajah returns to court on Tuesday 8 March, will he have time to write up his neglected judgements? Even if he manages to release them to the concerned parties on 8 March, many of them would have no time to consult attorneys to appeal within the 2 week-window they have to appeal.
A person on the Registrar’s staff was fearful: “When we are unable to give lawyers copies of judgements to file appeals, it is we who will be blamed.”
It is an ironic coincidence, points out a senior Trincomalee attorney, that it was only on 4 March 2022 that Victor Ivan wrote: “Does the judiciary possess the capacity to direct the country towards adopting corrective measures and preventing it from plunging into anarchy when the functioning of the legislature and the executive are already in jeopardy?” The attorney concludes that we badly need the Judicial Service Commission to supervise our judges.