A three-member bench of the Supreme Court yesterday sentenced Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Gampaha District MP Ranjan Ramanayake to four years rigorous imprisonment after finding him guilty to a charge of contempt of court.
The Bench comprised Justice Sisira J. de Abrew, Vijith K. Malagoda and Padman Surasena.
“We convict him for the offence of contempt of court punishable under Article 105(3) of the Constitution and sentence him to a term of four (4) years rigorous imprisonment,” the Court said in its judgment and directed the Registrar of the Court to issue a warrant committing Ramanayake to prison to a term of four years rigorous imprisonment.
The case stems from remarks made to the media by Ramanayake on 21 August 2017 after a parliamentary group where he alleged that the majority of Sri Lankan judges and lawyers were corrupt and these comments were telecast over a private television station.
Ranawaka Sunil Perera, a member of the public, after viewing the broadcast complained to the Supreme Court in terms of Article 105(3) of the Constitution on 22 August 2017 alleging that the said statement was in contempt of court.
The Supreme Court, by its order dated 21 November 2017 and 14 December 2017, called for a copy of the full recording of the statement from the relevant television station and having viewed the recording concluded the statement as being in contempt of court, warranting proceedings to be brought against Ramanayake.
The Supreme Court in its 20-page judgment said perusal of all evidence had shown that Ramanayake had said the words referring to the majority of Sri Lankan judges as corrupt and further, he had on a later occasion (14 December 2017) said the following words: “I will not, under any circumstances, withdraw the opinion expressed by me. Therefore, I talked only about these judges.”
“The charge levelled against him (Ramanayake) is that he committed the offence of contempt of court when he made the statement on 21 August 2017 outside Temple Trees. He admitted in his evidence that he said the following words when he made the above statement, ‘Majority in Sri Lanka are corrupted judges, corrupted lawyers. They work for money.’ For the above reasons, we affirm the Rule served on the Respondent and hold that the charge of contempt of court levelled against him has been proved beyond reasonable doubt,” the SC said in its judgment.
Ramanayake was given an opportunity to plead or not to plead guilty to the charge and he pleaded not guilty. “The evidence against him was led in open court and his counsel was given an opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses. The respondent was given an opportunity to call witnesses. The respondent too gave evidence. Thus, the respondent was given the freedom of a fair trial which is in my view more than the procedure laid down in Section 792 of the Civil Procedure Code,” Justice Sisira J. de Abrew wrote in the judgment.
Counsel Rasika Dissanayake with Sadun Senadhipathi appeared for the Petitioner on the instructions of Sanath Wijewardena, Counsel M.A. Sumanthiran with Viran Corea and J.C. Thambiah appeared for the Respondent on the instructions of D. Vithanapathirana. Sarath Jayamanne PC ASG with Suharshi Herath SSC appeared for the Attorney General.