By S.S. Selvanayagam
Hambantota District Parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa pleaded not guilty to charges of contempt of the Bribery Commission when his case was heard in the Supreme Court yesterday.
He also told the court that he was willing to go to the Bribery Commission and make a statement if required.
The matter was taken up before a bench comprising Chief Justice K. Sripavan and Justices Priyasath Dep and B.P. Aluvihara.
Senior Counsel Gamini Marapana PC, appearing for Rajapaksa, said that Rajapaksa was willing to go to the commission and make a statement and told the court that Rajapaksa followed legal advice as he genuinely believed that he was entitled to a copy of the complaint made against him.
He said that his client never wanted to disrespect or ridicule the commission and said that he could be directed to go to the commission and make a statement and he was willing to respond to the complaint but he wanted a copy of it.
Marapana said that his client had not committed any act of contempt against the commission so the court should terminate the proceedings.
The Chief Justice ruled that he could enter a plea and then go to the commission and make a statement. In response to this Rajapaksa pleaded not guilty. However, he asserted that before he made a statement the complaint against him should be read to him.
Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Rajaratnam told the court that he had to obtain instructions from the Bribery Commission and inform court as to what further steps had to be taken.
The court fixed the matter for 3.00 p.m. on 31 January.
On 15 September 2016 the Supreme Court directed the Bribery Commission to file a charge sheet against Rajapaksa for the alleged offence of contempt of the Bribery Commission on or before 3 October.
Court rejected the preliminary objections raised by Rajapaksa on the commencement of contempt proceedings.
The Bribery Commission complained to the Supreme Court that Rajapaksa committed an offence of Contempt of the Bribery Commission by allegedly disrespecting the authority by failing to appear before the commission on 26 May 2016.
Then Director General Dilrukshi Dias Wickremasinghe PC had sought to initiate contempt proceedings against Rajapaksa for failing to appear before the commission without giving reasonable cause and failing to produce an affidavit in connection with the investigations into his assets.
Signed by Chairman Justice T.B. Weerasuriya, the determination of the commission requested the Supreme Court to initiate proceedings against the Parliamentarian under Article 105(3) of the Constitution.
The commission stated that it had commenced an investigation into the assets of the Parliamentarian, which would be an indictable offence under the Bribery Act and the investigations revealed evidence to substantiate an offence of bribery.
Rajapaksa was requested by a notice dated 14 December 2015 to produce an affidavit on 20 January 2016, it stated.
In a letter dated 19 January 2016, Rajapaksa requested further time to send the affidavit, which the commission acceded to, granting him further time until 15 March. However, on 15 March, he had requested a copy of the complaint from the commission.
The commission wrote to him that it could not provide him with a copy as he was not entitled to one and further requested him to submit an affidavit before 17 April, a request with which he failed to comply. But the content of the letter was disputed by Jayantha Weerasinghe PC on behalf of Rajapaksa and in a letter dated 25 May he had replied to the summons and objected to its legality.
Gamini Marapana PC with Shavindra Fernando PC, Ali Sabry and Navin Marapana appeared for Rajapaksa. Additional Solicitor General Rajaratnam with Deputy Solicitor General Nerin Pulle appeared for the Attorney General as amicus curie (literally friend of the court to assist).