- Says absence of such statute serious gap in the law
- Says Ramanayake sentence of 4 years RI unprecedented and exceptionally severe
- Justice Minister says Contempt of Court law a necessary evil
- Says changes to law can be looked at in the new constitution
By Chandani Kirinde
TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran said yesterday that Parliament must take steps to enact a law on Contempt of Court for the country, as there is a very serious lacuna in the law in this regard.
“The sentence of four years rigorous imprisonment (RI) is unprecedented and exceptionally severe, and Parliament has a responsibility in this regard because we have not enacted a law for contempt of court,” Sumanthiran said after several MPs had made submissions to the House on behalf of jailed SJB MP Ranjan Ramanayake, who was recently sentenced to four years RI on a contempt of court charge.
The TNA MP who was the counsel for the jailed MP said that there is nothing prescribed in the law on sentencing of those found guilty of a contempt of court charge because Parliament has for a long time failed to enact a legislation with regard to the matter.
“There have been instances in the public realm when even drafts have been made. By failing to do that, it is like the freedom of the wild ass. Anything can be given as a sentence. And that is not a good thing,” he said.
The TNA lawmaker said that Parliament has to take steps to enact a law. “English Law is supposed to be the substantive law because we don’t have statute law now. In English law itself, scandalising the court is no longer an offence of contempt of court. There is a serious lacuna in the law with regards to a statute for contempt of court that has resulted in this unprecedented injustice to an honest Member of Parliament,” he said.
Justice Minister Ali Sabry said the Constitution has conferred the power on the Supreme Court to decide on the sentencing.
“I agree there is no contempt of court statute in the country. We might have to discuss and bring that in, but until such time what is there is very clear in the constitution. The Supreme Court is the apex court and Parliament has conferred that power. I am not a great fan of contempt of court, but it is a necessary evil,” he said.
Sabry added that unlike other offences, where there is a prescribed punishment, this has been kept open and that is an enormous power. “The Supreme Court can decide. That is the Constitution as it stands. So, let’s look at it in the new Constitution.”