By S. S. Selvanayagam
The Commissioner General of Prisons yesterday undertook to the Court of Appeal that no prisoner would be executed within the next seven days from Friday.
He gave this undertaking when the Writ Petition against the implementation of the death sentence came up before the Court of Appeal before the Bench comprising Justices Yasantha Kodagoda (President/CA) and Arjuna Obeyesekere.
On this basis the Counsel for the petitioner moved to support the Writ Petition next week.Court fixed the petition to be supported next Tuesday (2 July). Petitioner Malinda Seneviratne, a senior journalist, cited the Commissioner General of Prisons, Welikada Prisons Superintendent, Welikada Prison Executioner and the Attorney General as Respondents.
Counsel Niran Anketell with Hafeel Farisz instructed by Vidanapathirana Associates appeared for the Petitioner. Deputy Solicitor General Nerin Pulle appeared for the Commissioner General of Prisons and the Attorney General.
Petitioner in his public interest litigation, states that it is in the interest of the public that the rule of law be adhered to in all matters including the carrying out of sentences imposed by courts of law.
He states that various steps have been taken towards reintroducing the implementation of the death sentence in the recent past including advertising for the recruitment of an executioner, the procurement and/or preparation of rope and various other steps.
He states that on or about 26 June 2019, the President at a conference with heads of media institutions revealed that:
a. He has signed papers for the execution of the death sentence;
b. Four persons will be executed;
c. Executions will be conducted soon;
d. The date for the executions has been already decided.
He states that he does not, in this application and in these proceedings, seek to impugn the said actions of the President.
But he states that he believes the death penalty offends the Constitution and is a barbaric practice.
He states that an executioner is not entitled in law to execute a person sentenced to death and that that the Superintendent of Prisons is not entitled in law to cause any other person to execute a person sentenced to death.
He states that the execution of persons sentenced to death by one and/or more of the Respondents as set out herein, their servants, agents and those holding under them would be: (a) Prohibited by law and the Constitution; (b) A violation of the rights of citizens and that of the public inclusive of the Petitioner and the Petitioner himself; (c ) Ultra vires; (d) Arbitrary, irrational, capricious, vexatious and unreasonable; (e) Action that offends and is in breach of the principles of reasonableness, fairness, proportionality, legitimate expectation, natural justice and motivated by improper objectives.
He states that thus and otherwise, the imminent decisions and/or actions of one or more of the Respondents to execute prisoners sentenced to death and/or to execute prisoners sentenced to death through any servant, agent and person would be unlawful, void ab initio and of no force or effect in law.
He is seeking an Interim Order preventing the Respondents from executing a sentence of death on any person until the final hearing and determination of this application.
He is pleading for a Writ of Prohibition restraining the Respondents from executing a sentence of death on any person.
He is also seeking the court to grant and issue a mandate in the nature of a Writ of Certiorari quashing the decision to execute a sentence of death on any person.