NEW ANTI-CORRUPTION HIGH COURT

A new Anti-Corruption High Court, among other crucial measures, will soon be introduced as a part of the government’s mission for an expeditious and efficient administration of criminal justice.

Power and Renewable Energy Deputy Minister Ajith P. Perera yesterday said this new Anti-Corruption High Court will hold day-to-day trials by three Benches, each comprising three judges of the High Court.

Briefing the media at the Power and Renewable Energy Ministry yesterday morning, Perera pointed out that it is extremely important to properly administrate justice with regard to major bribery and corruption cases.

He pointed out that the bribery and corruption laws in Sri Lanka are outdated. “The private sector, public servants and politicians have created a web of bribery and corruption. For all these years, only four persons have been convicted with regard to bribery and corruption . This does not mean we don’t have corruption. It indicates that laws are not strongly adequate. This calls for amendments to the law,” Perera said. According to him, necessary amendments to the Bribery or Corruption Act have already been sent to the Legal Draftsman’s Department.

Perera assured that the Anti -Corruption Court, which has received Cabinet and the President’s approval, will be functional within the next six months. The Sectorial Oversight Committee on Legal Affairs (anti-corruption) and Media will sit every two weeks to assess the progress of its establishment.

In addition, he said the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Legal Affairs (anti-corruption) and Media has recommended increasing the maximum number of High Court judges from 75 to 110, for the purpose of which an immediate amendment in the Judicature Act No.2 of 1978 is necessary.

The Deputy Minister further said that the respective Judicature Bill will be taken up for debate next Tuesday (7) and expressed his confidence that it will be passed without any objection.

He also said that the government is to establish ten new High Courts in several selected districts and in Colombo.

According to the recommendations of the Oversight Committee, the proposal is to establish High Courts in Anuradhapura, Kandy, Gampaha and Ratnapura where a huge backlog of cases has been identified. The proposal also includes a new High Court in Matale, five additional High Courts in the Colombo area and a High Court exclusively for the hearing of cases relating to child abuse. These High Courts will be accommodated at already available buildings.

On the same topic, Deputy Minister Perera said that according to the findings of the Special Committee on Amending the Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure Act, the average length of time from the date of commission of a serious criminal offence that should be prosecuted at the High Court, till the date of the conclusion of prosecution at same is over 10 years. He also pointed out that it generally consumes seven years for the completion of the two appeals in the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, subsequent to hearing of a case at the High Court.

The Deputy Minister also said that the Attorney General’s Department will be reinforced as a part of this process to formulate an accelerated and productive judicature system. Accordingly, he said, the approved cadre for Senior State Counsel will be increased from 118 to 218. “The legal officers attached to the AG’s Department have many issues. For once they have a salary issue for which we have called for immediate revisions. Then, there is a space problem. These officers have to occupy only very limited office space. We are already looking into solving this matter as well,” he said.

Speaking on the Committee On Public Enterprises, Deputy Minister Perera said a system should be evolved where the AG’s Department takes all COPE reports into consideration and take legal action if necessary.

Perera also said that there will be much resistance to this whole process.

“The resistance may come from people who are involved in bribery and corruption.” However, he assured that the government will go ahead with the mission to create a proper environment for the administration of justice in the country.

The specific recommendations were forwarded in September 2017, by the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Legal Affairs (anti corruption) and the Media. The Committee is headed by MP Ajith Mannapperuma. 

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