Firebrand Buddhist monk Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero, known for his hard-line approach, was jailed yesterday for six years after being found guilty of contempt of court over his conduct during a court hearing regarding the case of missing journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda.
Gnanasara Thero, the Secretary General of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS),was found guilty of four charges filed by the Attorney General’s Department for his behaviour. He was convicted on four counts of contempt of court, receiving terms of four years each on the first and the second counts, six years on the third and five for the fourth, all to run concurrently.
In 2016, Gnanasara Thero interrupted a court hearing over the abduction of the journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda, in which military intelligence officials were accused. The monk, disagreeing with the proceedings of the Court, shouted at the presiding judge and lawyers as the accused military men were refused bail. The same day, he also threatened the wife of the missing journalist, Sandhya Eknaligoda.
The action lead to a court case by Eknaligoda’s wife where Gnanasara Thero was found guilty and sentenced to six month of rigorous imprisonment. The monk later appealed the case and was released on bail.
BBS spokesperson DilantheWithanage said that they will appeal against today’s ruling.
“Although we do not agree, we will accept the judgment, but we will appeal the sentence,” he told Daily FT.
The monk, driving a hard-line nationalist stance in Sri Lanka for a Sinhala-Buddhist rule, has been accused of being connected to anti-Muslim violence in the country. (CD)
The Bench comprised Justices P.Padman Surasena (President/CA) and Shiran Gunaratne.
Court noted that all the charges have been proved, and he is guilty of all counts of charges.
Court was of the opinion that the Accused Respondent has made the utterances deliberately, and that he stood up and addressed demanding the release of an Accused Intelligence Officer who had been remanded before.
Court sentenced him to four years Rigorous Imprisonment each for the first two counts, and six years and five years respectively for the other two Counts,totalling 19 years Rigorous Imprisonment.
Court directed these sentences to run concurrently, resulting for 6 years Rigorous Imprisonment.
Accused Respondent Ven. Gnanasara Thero was not present in Court. Manohara de Silva PC appeared for him and informed the Court that the Respondent was admitted to the Sri Jayewardenepura General Hospital on 6 August, as he had developed pain in the stomach, probably indicating kidney trouble. He also informed the Court that the Accused Respondent might undergo surgery in one or two days, if kidney problems were diagnosed.
Court issued orders to the Superintendent of the Prison of Welikada, to take charge of the Accused Respondent forthwith, and after his recovery,proceed to the implementation of the sentence imposed on him.
Counsel Manohara de Silva in the instance moved to Court for time to consider the oral application for permission to appeal.
He cited Rule 22(1) (II), read with 23(3), and sought time for oral submission to consider the determination of the application. Court fixed 29 August at 2.00 pm as the date for the purpose of the consideration.
Senior Counsel Manohara de Silva with Anusha Perusinghe appeared for Ven.Gnanasara Thero. Deputy Solicitor General Rohantha Abeysuriya appeared for the Attorney General as amicus curiae (lit., “friend of the court”, one who assists the court by furnishing information or advice regarding questions of law or fact.)
Homagama Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake filed a Contempt of Court action in the Court of Appeal against Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) General Secretary Ven. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero, seeking the Appeal Court’s constitutional jurisdiction against Ven. Gnanasara Thero’s alleged offensive behaviour in the Homagama Magistrate’s Court, amounting to Contempt of Court, on 25 January 2016.
On 25 January 2016, Ven. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero began to address Open Court after the court hearing pertaining to the disappearance of journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda was over. Later on, Ven. Gnanasara Thero was arrested by Police on the charges of Contempt of Court, obstructing Court proceedings, and intimidating a public servant.
Through this Contempt of Court action, the Homagama Magistrate has sought the Appeal Court’s jurisdiction to consider whether the alleged offensive behaviour of Ven.Gnanasara Thera inside the Court amounts to Contempt of Court.
He further sought Court’s jurisdiction to take necessary legal action against Ven. Gnanasara Thero if the charges levelled against him amount to Contempt of Court.
Manohara de Silva PC appeared for the Accused Gnanasara Thero.Deputy Solicitor General Rohantha Abeysuriya appeared for the Attorney General as amicus curiae.