Appeal court fixes date to hear Raviraj case

Tuesday, 5 September 2017 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By S.S. Selvanayagam

The Court of Appeals has fixed for 12 December an appeal filed by the wife of slain Tamil National Alliance parliamentarian Nadarajah Raviraj against a lower court’s ruling on her husband’s murder. 

The bench comprised justices Kumudini Wickramasinghe and P. Padman. The second accused-respondent Navy officers Chandana Kumara alias Sampath, who was said to be absconding, was not present in Court yesterday.

Deputy Solicitor General Rohantha Abeysuriya on 19 June informed Court that the second accused-respondent the Navy officer Sampath, who had been reinstated by the Navy after having been acquitted by the High Court in the Raviraj murder case, has disappeared.

Deputy Solicitor General Abeysuriya, appearing for the Attorney General, also told Court that following his acquittal Sampath was wanted by the police in a separate case.

He had also told Court that Sampath’s wife had lodged a complaint with the police that her husband was missing.

Counsel M.A. Sumathiran PC had on 28 March pleaded with the Court to issue a directive to the CID to trace the whereabouts of the three accused including Sampath and report back to the Court.

He had informed Court that the main accused, the second accused Navy officer, was wanted in another case concerning the abduction and killing of 11 people in Colombo and was absconding while the Magistrate’s Court had issued a warrant for his arrest.

Counsel Sumanthiran had also asked to find the whereabouts of the accused as the Attorney General told Court that the Navy could not serve notice on them.

He told Court that the Attorney General’s appeal against the acquittal of the accused was pending and asked Court to consolidate that appeal with the revision application.

In the revision application, the aggrieved party/victim petitioner Sasikala Raviraj was asking the Court to find the accused guilty of all or several of the charges and for sentences to be passed on them in accordance with the law.

She is asking the Court to otherwise call for a retrial by a judge of the High Court without a jury.

She cited the accused Palanisami Suresh alias Sami and Navy officers Chandana Kumara alias Sampath, Gamini Seneviratne, Pradeep Chaminda alias Vajira along with S. Vivekananthan alias Charan and Fabian Roiston Tusen as accused-respondents and the Attorney General.

Sumanthiran, with Niran Anketell instructed by Moahan Balendra, appeared for the aggrieved party/victim petitioner.

The petitioner states that the first, fifth and sixth accused were not arraigned before the Court while the first accused was said to be deceased and the fifth and sixth accused were said to be absconding.

Raviraj and one other person were assassinated on 10 November 2006.

The Attorney General filed an indictment against the accused and when the case was taken up prior to the trial, the Counsel for the accused made an application to the High Court that the accused be tried by a Sinhala-speaking Jury.

Counsel representing the aggrieved party objected to the application and written submissions were made, she states.

The indictment in the instant case included charges relating to offences specified in the Provision of Terrorism Act as well as offences specified in the Penal Code, she states.

Petitioner Sasikala Raviraj maintains that it is the procedure specified by the PTA which will override any other procedure stipulated by the regular criminal code and contends that in this case that requires that the trial be by a judge without a jury as specified in Section 15(1) of the PTA.

She states that the High Court judge on 23 December 2016 made an order overruling the objection of the petitioner and allowing a trial by a special jury. She said the High Court judge, after addresses to the jury by the Attorney General and the Counsel for the aggrieved party, charged the jury in terms of the Code of Criminal Procedure and that he also charged the jury to provide a verdict in respect of all charges in the indictment, including those relating to the PTA.

After the jury’s deliberations, on 24 December 2016, it returned a verdict of not guilty for all the charges of the accused in the indictment and the High Court judge thereafter discharged the accused.

Sasikala Raviraj seeks the revisionary power of the Court of Appeal as to whether the High Court judge has erred by ordering a trial by jury where the indictment contains a charge of the commission of an offence or offences under PTA as well as by failing to consider and fully appreciate Section 15(1) of the PTA which specially requires trial by a judge without a jury.