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BILL NOT TO SET UP NEWCOURTS

Expressing views regarding the proposed amendments to the Judicature Act, the Attorney General yesterday informed the Supreme Court that the proposed Bill is not to establish a new High Court but to have certain court rooms having Benches of three judges of the High Court to only hear complex financial and economic crime cases expeditiously.

Senior Additional Solicitor General Yasantha Kodagoda PC appearing on behalf of the Attorney General made this remarks when the hearing pertaining to seven Special Determination petitions challenging the constitutionality of the bill entitled the Judicature (Amendment), a Bill to amend the Judicature Act No.2 of 1978 were taken up before a Supreme Court three-judge-bench comprising Chief Justice Priyasad Dep, Justice Buwaneka Aluvihare and Justice Nalin Perera.

He further said it is in the interest of the country that such complex financial crime cases be heard and concluded expeditiously.

The SASG said reference to the permanent High Court-at-Bar will be amended during the committee stage.

“It would become clear that the reference to the term permanent High Court-at-Bar will not be reference to creation of a new High Court. It would only be High Courts of Republic which will have a Bench of three judges which will only hear the cases in terms of the proposed amendment to the Judicature Act,” the SASG added.

“The proper administration of criminal justice with regard to complex finance and economic crimes required a considerable judicial experience for proper dispensation of criminal justice as well as collective judicial consideration.

Through this provisions not a single judge of a High Court will decide but a three-Judge-Bench of the High Court will collectively consider,” he further added.

Mr. Kodagoda said particularly, complex financial and economic crimes are a threat to governance. “There can be a macro economic impact on the economy of the country as we observed during last two years with regard to Treasury Bonds. It is in the interest of the country that such complex cases be heard and concluded expeditiously,” he further added.

SASG Kodagoda further said both the Attorney General and the Director General of the Bribery Commission already have prosecutorial discretion with regard to the court in which proceedings ought to be heard.

However, in his Special Determination petition, MP Dinesh Gunawardena had alleged that it would indirectly empower the Attorney General and the Director General for the Prevention of Bribery and Corruption to use the findings of the investigations carried out by police. “At present, the Chief Justice appoints three High Court judges who are currently presiding in three different High Courts and called upon them and empanel themselves as separate bench of High Court and hear this one trial at Bar on a day-to-day basis. So we have separate forms of High Court judges decided not by the executive but identified by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) on complex nature of the Financial and Economic crime cases”, Mr. Kodagoda said.

Meanwhile, the SASG rejected a statement given by former Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe to the media alleging that the Attorney General had given a 19 pages opinion that the new laws to set up High Courts are unconstitutional. Mr. Kodagoda produced in Court a file maintained by the Attorney General showing that what was ruled by the Attorney General was not in connectgon with this bill but the bill prepared to establish a tribunal outside the judiciary.

Seven Special Determination petitions challenging the constitutionality of the bill entitled the Judicature (Amendment), a bill to amend the Judicature Act No.2 of 1978 was yesterday fixed for further argument today (20) by the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, 13 parties including Megalopolis and Western Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka and State Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva had filed intervention petitions in support of this bill and the oral submissions on behalf of these intervention petitioners are to be made today.

Seven Special Determination petitions had been filed by Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna Chairman G.L. Peiris, Joint Opposition leader Dinesh Gunawardene, BASL President U.R. de Silva and four others. They stated that the concerned bill would vest in the ‘executive’ with arbitrary powers to decide as to whom to be tried before the proposed High Court and thereby deprive the citizens of equal application of the Criminal Procedure, which is essential for the upholding of the ‘Rule of Law.

In their intervention petitions Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka, State Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva, State Minister Eran Wickramaratne, Deputy Minister Karunaratne Paranavitharana, State Minister Ajith P. Perera, Prof. Sarath Wijesuriya, Saman Rathnapriya, Jayadeva Uyangoda, Attorney-at-Law K.W. Janaranjana, Gamini Viyangoda and Jagath Premachandra sought the Court’s intervention to make their submissions.

They also sought a declaration that the bill shall not become law through a two-thirds majority in Parliament and the approval of the people at a referendum.

The intervention petitioners further said the clauses of the said bill are not in violation of and inconsistent with Articles 3, 4(a), (b) (c), 12(1), 12(2), 13(3),14, 14(1)(g) 27, 75, 83 and 84(2) and the other Articles of the Constitution.

President’s Counsel Romesh de Silva, Gamini Marapana PC, Sanjeewa Jayawardena PC, Manohara de Silva PC and Kushan de Alwis PC appeared on behalf of the petitioners.

President’s Counsel J.C. Weliamuna, Dr. Jayampathi Wickremaratne PC, Geoffrey Alagaratnam PC and Saliya Peiris PC appeared for the intervention petitioners.

Additional Solicitor General Yasantha Kodagoda PC with Additional Solicitor General Priyantha Nawana PC appeared for the Attorney General.