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One can criticize constructively, if one scandalizes Court, it cannot sit idle … Justice Minister

Ali Sabry

Minister of Justice Ali Sabry has observed that one could criticize constructively, but if anyone went beyond his or her limit and if one tried to scandalize court, that court could not sit idle and wait, because if they did, no one would take courts seriously and respect the law.

He made this observation while addressing the House. He said:

“The Government has nothing to do with Ranjan Ramanayake’s imprisonment and is not happy about it The Opposition Leader brought up section 89 of the Constitution and Section 89 Sub-Section 4 is very clear. I will read that so that you could take an informed decision. The Section 89 reads, “No person shall be qualified to be an elector at an election of the President or the Members of Parliament or to vote any referendum if he is subjected to any of the following disqualifications namely, if he is serving or has during seven years, immediately preceding completed serving of a sentence of imprisonment by whatever the name called , for a term not less than six months imposed after conviction by any court for an offence punishable with the imprisonment for a term not less than two years or is under sentence of death, or is serving or has during the period of seven years immediately preceding, completed serving of a sentence of imprisonment for a term not less than six months awarded in lieu of execution of such sentence: provided that if any person disqualified under this paragraph is granted a free pardon, such disqualification shall seize from the date on which the pardon is granted.

It is very clear that MP Ranjan Ramanayake is presently serving a sentence. Unfortunately in his case, unlike in the case of Premalal Gunasekara, the Supreme Court is the apex court of this country. Since 1972, we don’t have any other final appeal process. So, there is no pending appeal and this is what I wanted to bring to your attention.

It is also important that the Supreme Court is given that power in terms of the Constitution itself. I cite Article 105 (3) The Supreme Court of the Republic of Sri Lanka and the Court of Appeal of the Republic of Sri Lanka shall each be a superior court of record and shall have all the powers of such court including the power to punish for contempt of itself, whether committed in the court itself or elsewhere, with imprisonment or fine or both as the court may deem fit.
I agree with Parliamentarian Sumanthiran that there is no contempt law in this country. Perhaps we might have to discuss this at a later date and bring that statute. Here the power has been conferred on the Supreme Court unlimited and it has been given by this Parliament itself. So, until that law is in operation. But, until such time, what is there is very clear in the Constitution itself. The Supreme Court has done it, the Supreme Court is the apex court and has the power and MP Sumanthiran himself represented him and it is after a proper hearing. While I am not a fan of Contempt of Court, it is a necessary evil.

One can constructively criticize, but if anyone goes beyond their limit and if one tries to scandalize court, that court cannot sit idle and wait. Because if they do, no one will take courts seriously and respect the law.

It is important that the dignity of all three institutions, the Judiciary, the Executive and Parliament, be protected and it is important that we preserve the Constitution. Nothing has happened beyond the law in the case of MP Ranjan Ramanayake. Everyone is bound to abide by the law."

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