Contempt of court, robes and coats
Posted on August 9th, 2018

Editorial Courtesy The Island

Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) Chief Ven. Galabodaatte Gnanasara Thera has been sentenced to jail for contempt of court. Opinion may be divided on the severity of the punishment—19 years RI to be served in six years—but the fact remains that he committed a very serious offence and nothing could be cited in extenuation thereof.

The convict is currently in hospital and his lawyers have said they will appeal against the judgement. The Court Appeal, which sentenced him, has held that the implementation of the sentence will not be suspended pending the appeal. This is certainly bad news for the BBS chief.

Nobody should be allowed to desecrate court houses. Those who cause affronts to the dignity of the judiciary, which is one of the main pillars of democracy, have to be severely dealt with. Somebody should have warned Gnanasara Thera of the consequences of his action before he obstructed the proceedings of the Homagama Magistrate’s Court in 2016.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) evinced a keen interest in Ven. Gnanasara’s case and went so far as to offer its services to the court as an amicus curiae. Its efforts to safeguard the dignity of the judiciary and judicial independence are to be highly appreciated. It has helped remind one and all that a person cannot be above the law simply because he happens to wear the saffron robe, and both the laity and the clergy are equal before the law. That done, the task before the BASL is to ensure that the members of the black-coated fraternity are also not allowed to get away with the offence of misbehaving in courts.

It is said that the law must apply to each and every citizen equally. If so, contempt of court charges must be brought against all those responsible for running riot in court houses and insulting and threatening judges. The law must not be selectively enforced if the people are not to lose their faith therein.

Unfortunately, the BASL did not take up cudgels for the judiciary on Nov. 18, 2011, when the judges who found former Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka guilty in the White Flag case and sentenced him to jail were threatened in open court. When the judgement was given all hell broke loose in the Colombo High Court with some lawyers going berserk; they smashed up court furniture in protest against the sentencing of the General and hurled raw abuse at the judges including a woman. They also openly threatened the beleaguered judges, whom the police had to remove to safety. They brought the legal profession into disrepute and created a very bad precedent. If some of them had been arrested and prosecuted, perhaps, Gnanasara Thera would have been wary of doing what he did about four and a half years later in Homagama.

Strangely, the ardent champions of judicial independence, who take to the streets at the drop of a hat, chose to remain silent on the despicable incident in the Colombo High Court presumably for political reasons. Those culprits should also have been charged under the Offences against Public Property Act as well for damaging the court furniture. Is it that they were let off the hook because they were wearing black coats? Are lawyers above the law?

Let the BASL, which, sadly, blotted its copybook through its inaction, be urged to have the 2011 incident in the Colombo High Court probed. Better late than never. After all, instances of corruption, abuse of power and violence under the previous regime are currently being investigated and arrests made—and rightly so. The aforesaid incident should be similarly treated.

4 Responses to “Contempt of court, robes and coats”

  1. aloy Says:

    There are only two people who can speak in a language most Sinhalas can understand. This Ven monk is one of them. The issue at stake in the courts was about the conduct of supposed to be the wife of a traitor who worked with the enemies of SL to dismember the country. The woman at the center of this controversy appeared against the country in Geneva and other places and (posed even with the the prez of US, the country which brought resolutions against SL) her conduct should be condemned. Perhaps the Ven Monk could not control his emotions and acted erroneously. All are human beings, and prone to err depending on the person.
    I believe he should be pardoned as he has a deep love for the country and sasana, to my mind.

  2. Ratanapala Says:

    Whatever contempt of courts the Ven Gnanasara committed, it is unbelievable to understand a prison sentence of 19 years in a country where those commit far worse crimes get off lightly and with meaninglessly short prison sentences. Ranil Wickramasinghe, the band master who orchestrated the Central Bank Bond Scam is still a free bird roaming the country, still thought of as Mr Clean by rank and file idiots in Sri Lanka. The fact that there is no due process reels of the absence of proper law enforcing and justice.

    The contempt of the courts happen in the courts themselves where a majority of the lawyers / advocates/solicitors do not pay tax or flagrantly evade paying tax. The crimes they commit hardly ever surface and are not very different to those committed by the doctors in hospitals. They are a monopoly with grandscale ‘insider trading’!

    The court ruling to incarcerate Rev Gnanasara is purely political and an open threat to the Buddhist Establishment in Sri Lanka to limit their influence in the political process. The participation of the Buddhist Establishment in the political process in Sri Lanka is over 2400 years old and it will continue to the future. It is incumbent on the rulers to respect that process.

  3. Ananda-USA Says:

    I agree with both Aloy and Ratnapala.

    The sentence given to Ven Gnanasara is TOO HARSH!

    Also, COURTS cannot be BEYOND CRITICISM in a so-called Democracy. There must be ROOM in a DEMOCRAZY to criticize EVEN the COURT without being SILENCED by LEGAL DICTAT like this!

  4. Randeniyage Says:

    Only way to get him released( if you want ) is to out vote all major parties ! No point saying TOO HARSH and so on.
    All major parties have badly condemned him saying he is working for RAW etc.

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