SL Supreme Court rejects FR petition by ABC radio network

[TamilNet, Friday, 02 November 2007, 17:39 GMT]
Sri Lanka's Supreme Court Thursday rejected the Fundamental Rights violation petition filed by the Asia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) news network against the suspension of broadcast by its five radio channels. The Chief Justice Sarath N.Silva presiding the two-member bench with the consent of Justice Nimal Dissanayake dismissed the FR petition at the first instant without taking it for consideration upholding two preliminary objections raised by counsel for respondents, legal sources said.

The SC further found the Director General of the ABC network Mr. Samantha Reynor Silva guilty of contempt of court for suppressing true information to court regarding the broadcast of false news through its Sinhala radio channel "HIRU-FM" on October 24. The Supreme Court allowed the Director General in cash bail in a sum of Rs: 25,000/= and fixed the sentence for November 26, legal sources said.

ABC radio network filed the FR petition in the Supreme Court that the suspension of its radio channels had violated the fundamental rights of the institution. The petition sought the court to order lifting the suspension.

Media Minister, Media Ministry Secretary, Telecom Regulatory Commission Chairman, Inspector General of Police and Attorney General were cited as respondents.

When the FR petition was taken up for hearing, the State Counsel appearing for the respondents raised two preliminary objections. One objection was that the broadcasting licence issued to the ABC network was invalid in law and null and void. The second objection was that the petitioner has misled the court by suppressing true facts regarding the controversial news item broadcast by the HIRU-FM on October 24. That was tantamount to contempt of court. Hence the court should reject the FR petition at that first instant without taking it for consideration, they argued.

The court upheld the objections. The Chief Justice stated that misleading the court with suppressing true facts was a grave offence. The controversial news item could have led to another communal riot in the country. The Court said the reply given by the Director General of ABC network was not satisfactory. Hence the court found him guilty for contempt of court and the sentence on him would be announced on November 26, legal sources said.

Meanwhile another FR petition filed by the ABC network Director General seeking protection from the police arrest is pending in the court.


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