SC orders Gota to show cause on Duminda 

  • Notice issued to appear before court on 16 Dec. over controversial pardon

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

The Supreme Court (SC), which granted permission to name former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa as a respondent to the fundamental rights (FR) petitions seeking the reversal of the decision by Rajapaksa to release murder convict-cum-former MP Duminda Silva under a Presidential pardon, ordered that notices be issued for Rajapaksa to appear before the court and make relevant explanations on 16 December.

FR petitions filed by the wife of the late MP Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra, Sumana Premachandra; Lakshman Premachandra’s daughter and former MP Hirunika Premachandra; former Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) Hamid Ghazail Hussain; and several others, challenging the Presidential pardon granted to Silva by Rajapaksa, were taken up before a two-judge SC bench consisting of President’s Counsels (PC) and Justices Murdu N.B. Fernando and Yasantha Kodagoda, yesterday (24).

The attorneys for the petitioners who filed a motion earlier in relation to these FR petitions had requested permission to name Rajapaksa as a respondent, to which the SC had granted permission.

Attorney-at-Law Eraj De Silva, who appeared for Sumana Premachandra, also informed the SC that a notice had been sent to the private residence of Rajapaksa in Mirihana in relation to the FR petitions, but that the notice had been returned with a note that read: “Acceptance was refused.”

Taking into account the explanations made by the petitioners, the SC ordered that notices be issued for Rajapaksa to appear before the court on 16 December and to make the relevant explanations with regard to granting a Presidential pardon to Silva.

On 8 September 2016, the relevant High Court Trial-At-Bar found Silva and four of his associates guilty and imposed the maximum penalty, the death sentence, on all of them for the killing of Lakshman Premachandra and three of the latter’s supporters. The decision of the Trial-At-Bar was divided between Judges Padmini Ranawaka and Charith Moraes deciding on a guilty verdict on five of the suspects, while Judge Shiran Gooneratne acquitted the suspects of all charges. 

The Trial-at-Bar decision was later appealed to the SC. A five-judge bench of the SC presided over by then-Chief Justice (CJ) Priyasath Dep PC, including Justices Buwaneka Aluwihare PC, Priyantha Jayawardena PC, Nalin Perera (later CJ), and Vijith Kumara Malalgoda PC was appointed to hear the appeal.

The SC was unanimous in its decision to reject the appeal and uphold the conviction on 11 October 2018. Judge Ranawaka was subsequently implicated in the leaked audio clips belonging to former MP Ranjan Ramanayake, where she had allegedly curried favour with the latter to lobby then-President Maithripala Sirisena on her behalf in order for her to be elevated to the Court of Appeal prior to her retirement, as she had given the decision regarding the political authorities at the time wanted in connection with the Silva case. 

However, on 24 June 2021, then-President Rajapaksa granted a Presidential pardon to several prison inmates including Silva, in view of the Poson Full Moon Poya Day. Subsequently, FR petitions were filed by Sumana Premachandra, Hirunika Premachandra, and several others, after which the SC ordered to suspend the Presidential pardon granted to Silva, and ordered that he be placed in remand custody until the conclusion of the FR petition hearings. The petitioners, who have alleged that Rajapaksa had not properly followed the legal provisions for the granting of the Presidential pardon, have requested the SC to issue an order invalidating the relevant Presidential pardon.