By Shamindra Ferdinando
Attorney-at-law Ajith Prasanna faces a high profile trial in the Supreme Court over his controversial comments on a recent live political programme on a private television channel.
The Bar Council on Saturday, Dec 14, unanimously decided to move the SC against Prasanna, formerly of the Sri Lanka Army for being critical of several senior members of the Attorney General’s Department, Magistrates as well as law enforcement officers as regards four cases – disappearance of media personality Prageeth Ekneligoda (2010), abduction and disappearance of 11 persons by the Navy (2008), abduction and torture of Deputy Editor of The Nation Keith Noyahr (2008) and attempt on Rivira Editor Upali Tennakoon’s life (2008).
President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) Kalinga Indatissa, PC, presided over the regular monthly meeting at its main office at Mihindu Mawatha, Hulftsdorp.
The Bar Council took up the issue under what was categorised as any other matter.
Ajith Prasanna is the second attorney-at-law to face SC proceedings following complaint received in respect of a lawyer’s conduct. The SC in March 2019 barred public litigation activist Nagananda Kodituwakku from practising law for a period of three years following a contempt of court charge.
A three-member bench, comprising then Chief Justice Nalin Perera, Justices Sisira de Abrew and Prasanna Jayawardena issued the order in respect of a defamation case filed in 2015.
Kodituwakku was charged with contempt of court on the basis that he had behaved in an unruly manner before former Appeals Court President Judge Vijith Malalgoda.
The Bar Council announced its decision to haul former Southern Provincial Council member before the SC following representations made by three lawyers. Attorney-at-law Prasanna was also present on the occasion. Prasanna altogether named five Magistrates, three AG’s Department officials and law enforcement officers, including Inspector Nishantha Silva, who recently secured political asylum in Switzerland.
Attorney-at-law Jagath Abeynayake called for tangible action against the retired Major Prasanna, who had to quit active service after being wounded in the Jaffna peninsula. At the time of the incident, Prasanna was with the sixth battalion of the Sinha Regiment. Subsequently, he served the Army Legal Directorate.
Pointing out that Prasanna was present at the Bar Council meeting, Abeynayake said that by naming judges, the Attorney General’s Department personnel and law enforcement officers involved in various cases, the lawyer concerned had unnecessarily intervened in judicial matters. Abeynayake called for immediate SC intervention. Abeynayake received the backing of A. Devendra, a batch mate of Prasanna and another member.
However, a member of the Bar Council underscored the need to examine accusations and responses as there were question marks over some members of the Attorney General’s Department. The lawyer questioned why those who represented the AG’s Department sometimes met judges in their chambers without the presence of lawyers representing the accused.
President’s Counsel Indatissa has given an opportunity to Prasanna to address the gathering. Having taken the responsibility for his strongly disputed comments, Prasanna said that he would not tender an apology or compromise his stand on ongoing attacks on the military, particularly the intelligence services. Prasanna said that he had no option but to name the AG Department personnel, judges as well as law enforcement officers involved in conspiracy to protect certain public servants.
Prasanna said that he defended the military as he respected the uniform much more than the lawyer’s attire. The former Major underscored the pivotal importance of national security while warning of dire consequences unless tangible measures were taken to protect security interests.
BASL Chief Indatissa strongly advised Prasanna that he couldn’t under any circumstances undermine the lawyer’s profession comparing it with the military service.
Prasanna told the Bar Council that he was prepared to face SC trial. Prasanna said that he would furnish the required information to substantiate his accusations.
President’s Counsel Indatissa directed Prasanna not to discuss ongoing cases pending SC hearing his case.
Meanwhile, Prasanna, counsel for a disabled Captain of Sri Lanka Army brought to the Bar Council attention unprecedented case in which his client had been remanded for exercising his right to send a letter of demand to some women who accused him of sexual harassment several years back. The Bar Council was told that action had been initiated against the disabled officer on the advise given by the AG’s Department. Prasanna asked how his client’s right to send a letter of demand through his lawyers could be challenged. The Bar Council decided to inquire into the matter expeditiously and directed Prasanna to brief President’s Counsel Shavendra Silva, Vice President of the BASL as regards the case first heard in the Balangoda Magistrate court.