Contempt of court: Warning issued to Treasury Secretary
14 days ago
Legal counsel for Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara yesterday (18) has written to Treasury Secretary K.M. Mahinda Siriwardana, informing him that he will be charged for the offence of contempt of court.
The letter, sent by Madduma Bandara’s lawyer Attorney-at-Law Sampath Wijewardena, cites the outcome of a Supreme Court case filed by Madduma Bandara regarding the release of funds for the Local Government Elections, which are now in limbo due to the Government’s refusal to provide funds.
The warning about the charges came after Siriwardana failed to release funds allocated for the purpose of conducting the Local Government Polls 2023, despite an interim order issued by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka on 3 March to this end.
As such, Wijewardena has notified the Treasury Secretary that he will be charged for the offence of contempt of court. All rights of the petitioner are reserved.
“In the case of SC FR 69/2023, the Election Commission and the petitioner, MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara, General Secretary of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya, had requested an interim order to prevent the withholding of funds allocated for the Local Government Polls 2023. The court granted the request and ordered the Secretary to the Treasury to release the first instalment of Rs. 100 million by 14 March 2023,” the letter reminded.
However, the Treasury Secretary failed to comply with the court order and cited a Cabinet decision taken on 13 February as the reason for his inability to release the funds.
This led to the Election Commission writing to the Treasury Secretary on 7 March, urging him to release the funds for the holding of the Local Government Elections on a staggered basis commencing from 14 March.
“Despite the repeated requests, the Treasury Secretary failed to release the funds and filed an affidavit through his attorneys in SC FR 69/2023, citing the Cabinet decision as the reason for his inability to comply with the court order. The counsel appearing on his behalf was heard exhaustively on this matter. However, the learned judges of the Supreme Court found the Treasury Secretary’s actions to be in manifest violation of the orders of the apex court of the country and committed the offence of contempt of the Supreme Court punishable under Article 105 of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.
“Contempt of court is a serious offence that undermines the rule of law and the Judiciary’s authority. It is essential for public officials to comply with court orders and failure to do so can have severe consequences. The Treasury Secretary’s actions in this case have raised concerns about the Government’s commitment to upholding the rule of law and respecting the Judiciary’s independence,” Wijewardena stated in his letter.