Southern courts prove safe ground in rights cases
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 27 March 2001, 20:53 GMT]
"Members of armed forces who have been cited in Habeas Corpus applications or who have been indicted in criminal cases filed in the eastern courts adopt the ploy of seeking the transfer of cases for them to Colombo so as to dissuade the affected parties from actively pursuing the establishment of their rights" said a human rights activist in Colombo who did not want to be identified.
"Several cases of this nature had been transferred to Colombo courts from Trincomalee in the past on applications made by indicted members of armed forces. Now the same ploy is being adopted in the Salli habeas corpus case," he added.
The first respondent in the Salli Habeas Corpus case has filed his application under Section 46 of the Judicature Act which empowers the Court of Appeal to transfer a case whenever it appears a fair and impartial trial cannot be had in any particular court or place.
A human rights activist cited a case in which a soldier had been indicted with the murder of a Tamil youth two years back at Thirukadaloor, a suburb in Trincomalee.
In this incident Lakshmikanthan, a fisherman, was shot by some army personnel during a search operation. People of the area held a street demonstration demanding an inquiry into the killing of the youth. Subsequently an inquiry was held and an army corporal was indicted in the Trincomalee High Court. However few months later the case was transferred to a Colombo High Court on an application made by the accused army corporal under Section 46 of the Judicature Act.
"Due to fear and other difficulties confronted by them in travelling from Trincomalee, several Tamil witnesses, including the father of the victim failed to appear in courts in Colombo on several dates. As a result of the absence of the witnesses, the inquiry into this case has not been concluded yet", the human rights activist said.
The Court of Appeal directed the High Court of Eastern Province in Trincomalee to stay the proceedings in a Habeas Corpus application until the final determination of the application filed by the first respondent- the Officer-in-Charge of the Nilaveli Navy detachment.
"I stay the proceedings in this Habeas Corpus action until the Court of Appeal decides on the stay order application", said High Court Judge Mr. A. N. Ramachandran Tuesday morning when the case was taken up for further inquiry. Attorney M.L.M. Salihu on behalf of the first respondent in the Habeas Corpus case handed over the certified copy of the stay order issued by the Court of Appeal to court.
In this Habeas Corpus application, the petitioner, Ms Pushparatha from the village of Salli, moved that the court should direct the respondents to produce her husband, Vairamuthu Jeyakili, 33.
The petitioner has cited six respondents in her application. They are: -
1. The OIC, Nilaveli Navy Detachment
2. The Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy
3. The Inspector General of Police.
4. The Headquarters Inspector of Police,Trincomalee.
5. The Secretary of the Ministry of Defence and
6. The Attorney General.
According to the petitioner, the Sri Lanka Navy personnel stationed at Nilaveli arrested her husband, Vairamuthu Jeyakili, along with two others while they were fishing in the sea close to Pigeon Island near Trincomalee.
She further stated in her application, except her husband, other two persons namely, Navaretnam Mohanraj (19) and Thiagarajah Pathmaseelan (18) were subsequently handed over to the Trincomalee Police by the Sri Lanka Navy. Later these two were released. But her husband was not released. When she inquired from the Navy personnel stationed at Nilaveli about her husband, they had told her that they did not arrest her him.
However, the two persons who were arrested with Jeyakili and released later had submitted affidavits that the husband of the petitioner was also arrested with them on the day of incident by some navy personnel.
The first respondent Fred Seneviratne, OIC, Nilaveli Navy detachment, filed a stay order application in the Court of Appeal against the inquiry by the East High Court in Trincomalee under 46 of the Judicature Act.
This application came up for inquiry before Justice Kulatilaka and Justice Raja Fernando. After the preliminary inquiry, the Court of Appeal issued a stay order stopping the proceedings in the Habeas Corpus application in the East High Court holden in Trincomalee until the determination of the stay order application.
The Court of Appeal fixed the inquiry into the stay order application for May 14.
Attorneys Saliya Peiris with Sapumal Bandara Atula de Silva appeared for the first respondent-petitioner in the Court of Appeal.