HC Rejects Ranawaka and Asmadala’s Objections
By Hansi Nanayakkara
Colombo High Court Judge Damith Thotawatta yesterday (2) dismissed the initial objections raised by the first accused, SJB MP Patali Champika Ranawaka and third accused former Welikada Police OIC Sudath Asmadala, in connection with the case where they have been charged with causing grievous injury to youth Sandeep Sampath, submitting fake evidence, fleeing after causing a traffic accident and failing to report the accident which took place at Rajagiriya five years ago, and ordered the trial to commence.
The two defendants argued that the High Court was not empowered by law to hear the case. But, Judge Thotawatta deemed there was no basis for the initial objections raised and ordered that the hearing take place.
The case was taken up to facilitate the response from the prosecution to the objections raised by both Ranawaka and Asmadala. The prosecution was represented by DSG Dileepa Peiris.
DSG – The grounds on which this case has been filed are clear. One party is the aggrieved, who had sustained an injury in the accident. The other party was the one in a luxury jeep. Hence, this is a case concerning a civilian and a State official. The first accused is a party leader and he was also a Cabinet Minister of the previous Government at the time of the incident. The second accused had been employed by the first accused and had worked for him over a period of time. He had also officially worked at the Ministry headed by the first accused.
The third accused is a Police Officer who had been in charge of the area where the incident had taken place. Hence, it can be seen that on one side there is a civilian and on the other there are a group of State officers. Even the vehicle involved in the accident belonged to the Government and it was attached to the Ministry of Power and Energy. Hence, it has to be inquired whether any justice has been meted out to this civilian, who is the victim, by this group of State officers, related to this incident today. Also, it can be seen that the victim, who is presently wheelchair-bound, has been brought to this Court by his father. The medical reports of the injured youth have been put on one side.
They have been going from place to place to seek justice for their son for over five years and 10 months. Therefore, the question has to be asked as to the validity of our judicial system if any justice cannot be granted to this youth. Let us look at this incident. There are several ways when an accident can take place. Among the reasons would be negligence, recklessness, being inebriated etc. It is clear that the actions of the accused indicate that they had been motivated towards committing an act of crime and they have also been guilty of negligence.
The lawyers for the defence have already raised objections with regard to charges filed against their respective clients. The charges relate to how the accused had used their political clout, social status and their official power to conspire to commit the offence. Also, these charges relate to three conspiracies. It is also the third accused who had been behind these conspiracies and he was the OIC of the Welikada Police at the time of the incident. He had been the person who had been instrumental in it. That is why I insist that this is not a mere traffic accident.
It is the third accused Sudath Asmadala who had been the prime mover behind this plot. Having used his official authority the jeep bearing number WP KT 7545 belonging to the said Ministry was on its way to Borella around midnight. After having arrived, the vehicle then suddenly turns to the right near the President’s College and towards the area where the Election Secretariat is situated. At the first instance there were a few motorcyclists who were going in front of the jeep. At that moment the jeep is turned to the main road and at that very moment the motorcycle ridden by the aggrieved party comes into contact with the jeep.
One of the riders of the motorcycle is swept away due to the impact of the crash while the other youth falls to the ground, then and there, having come into contact with the rear glass of the jeep. What does the driver of the jeep do? He opens his window and then continues to look on for a few seconds, but the occupants of the jeep should have considered the plight of the motorcyclists on humane grounds.”
DSG – The driver is looking out of the window of the vehicle. After that he continues to drive the jeep at speed. A few motorcyclists then tend to pursue the jeep. Later, they manage to get hold of the driver. At that moment the driver says that he is a Minister. He then shows his National Identity Card. He then tells one of them to quickly get onto the jeep and he continues to flee from that spot.
Afterwards, the second accused heads to the Police Station and surrenders. Then, charges against him are filed before the Magistrate’s Court for failing to prevent a traffic accident, reckless driving, negligence and failing to act on those injured etc. However, the main player in the case happens to be the third accused. Having used his OIC powers in a case that had come before him, he had replaced the wrongdoer with another person and he had proceeded to twist the entire incident. Hence, isn’t this an offence? Therefore, detailed charges have been filed against the third accused.
As per the provision contained in Section 290 of the Penal Code, the third accused had utilised his official authority to compile fake evidence in a case being heard before a Court. The third accused, having fully known that the first accused had committed an offence, taking action to conceal that offence and provide cover to the first accused, so that charges cannot be filed against him. The third accused had also intentionally strived to disappear or conceal the evidence. Although charges had been filed before the Magistrate’s Court no charges had been directed at causing irregularities to a State-owned vehicle.
The valid driver is then concealed by the Police Department. The next charge is connected to provisions contained in Section 200 of the Penal Code. That pertains to submitting information regarding a person who cannot be trusted and doing so having been aware of it and submitting such details via a false B Report to Court. None of these details that are submitted are uncertain facts. All of these measures had been taken to prevent the law taking its due course. Hence, the accused have been indicted before the High Court, to rectify these matters.
The second accused has to be charged with taking action to victimise the same person twice in this incident. This person is the one who had posed off as the driver of the jeep involved in the crash. This person is asking to consider the statement that he had given based on the Code of Criminal Procedure to the Magistrate’s Court. He could then also claim that he too is an aggrieved party. He does not say that there is no legal base to it. He also does not agree with the objections. Truly speaking, the first and third accused have no legal authority to make such claims in Court.
He is the person who had strived to conceal this case. He is now attempting to get out of the case via the second accused. But, the second accused does not make any comment. He has not stated that the charges filed are erroneous. He is only asking to consider the statement that he had given to the Magistrate’s Court as per provisions contained in Section 127 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. He has a valid point and we will consider it.”
DSG – If there is any validity to the claims made by the accused and if it is so revealed, then we, as the prosecution, are ready to give ear to it accordingly and consider it in keeping with the norms of the law. However, if action is taken to conceal the truth with acts of conspiracy, then we are not prepared to put up with it. When no request had been made concerning the second accused and when evidence was there in the case, baseless submissions had been produced before this Court. What has really taken place here is the legal process had been misused.
A few State officials had clearly and openly misused the law. There are only two parties to an accident. One is the aggrieved party and the other is the party responsible for the accident. Just because a case had been filed connected to an accident does the Government have the right to remain silent concerning the acts of intimidation that had taken place there. We can prove to this Court that this incident had taken place via three acts of conspiracies. The case also indicates the misuse of the investigation of this incident.
This has no bearing on the first case filed. The first and second accused, have not been revealed to be those who had not been singled out throughout the inquiry process. They had gone into hiding. These charges are related to them. They had been helped in their cause by the second accused. This case had not been filed to enable the second accused to surrender to the Police and to find him solely accountable for this offence. It concerns other details. This case concerns another different issue. Hence, the objections raised by these defendants become null and void voluntarily. This case had been filed regarding a case of cheating. Therefore, these objections are immaterial to it.
Even the motor traffic case that has been filed had been filed in a subtle manner to achieve vested interests. This case concerns a few incidents that had taken place after the accident had occured. The prosecution does not intend to unnecessarily drag this case based on flimsy matters. Even after five years had lapsed from the day of this accident, still the judicial process related to it had got delayed. An accused comes to the Court and the indictments had been handed over to him. Afterwards, they get bail. After receiving bail they activate the bail.
When summons are received by the witnesses measures are taken to file legal objections. Now a case cannot be filed because initial objections are submitted even before the case is taken up. This incident had taken place at the Police Station under the supervision of an OIC. All of that had been spearheaded by the first accused. He receives backing for that from the second accused. Hence we urge this Court to throw out the objections filed on behalf of the first and second accused and issue an order for the submissions to be produced by the prosecution.
Taking the submissions of both parties into consideration, Judge Thotawatta maintained that there was no legal foundation to the objections raised by the defendants that the cases filed before the Magistrate’s Court and the High Court concerns the same incident.
Hence he stated that he was ordering for the dismissal of the initial objections raised in this regard by the defence and ordered to commence trial proceedings.
Then fifth witness Dayananda Gunawardene, father of injured youth, Sandeep Sampath testified.
DSG – Are you aware as to which case you are testifying today?
Witness – Yes, I came today to testify regarding a traffic accident that had taken place in 2016.
DSG – At the time of the accident how old was your son and what was he doing?
Witness – My son was then 23-years and at the time was following an NIBM course as a software engineer.
DSG – You mentioned that you had come to this Court today to testify regarding an accident that had occurred on 28 February five years ago. What happened afterwards?
Witness – Sandeep is my only child. We do not have any other children. On the day of the accident, my son had gone with a few of friends to see a show. The motorcycle belonged to another friend and when on his way to hand it over, this accident had taken place. The moment I was notified of the accident I rushed to the hospital to see him. At the time of my arrival, I saw my son being rushed in a trolley to the ICU.
I saw my son writhing in extreme pain. He then remained at the National Hospital for around 30-days. Later he was transferred to the Ragama Rehabilitation Hospital for exercises. He could not even take meals. His stomach had been pierced and an instrument inserted. He was then treated at Ragama for over four-and-a-half months. After that me and my spouse rented a small room in that area and resided there to look into the wellbeing of our son.
It was I who remained at my son’s bedside and looked after him. Doctors advised us to look after him with utmost care and not to allow him to fall. Both his arms were to be operated at the National Hospital. The right arm has been operated and a plate has been inserted. However, they are yet to operate the left arm. That operation has not been done as he still cannot walk properly. He has also lost two front teeth in the accident. One eye is also not functioning properly. Hence I have no words to explain the sorry sight of my son to this Court.
DSG – How long did your son remain in hospital?
Witness – He spent around one month at the National Hospital. After that he was transferred to the Ragama Hospital and he stayed there for another four-and-a-half months and then sent to the National Hospital ahead of releasing him.
DSG – What happened afterwards?
Witness – We then brought our son home and got him to exercise him as advised by doctors.
DSG – After 28 February, 2016 what was the first day he was brought home?
Witness – He was brought home only after four- and- a- half months.
DSG – How long after the accident are you testifying?
Witness – I am testifying precisely five years and eight months, since the accident.
DSG – Currently what is the condition of your son?
Witness – My son cannot still walk. If he has to go on long distance travel then he has to do so by hiring a vehicle. Even today we rented a vehicle and came. We went to purchase medicine for our son last Saturday. We incur an expense of Rs. 18,900 for his medicine for a 90-day period.
DSG – Did you visit the Police Station following the incident?
Witness – After the incident on two or three days I visited the Welikada Police Station at around 9.30 am. The officer who was in the process of recording our complaint was told that an accident of this nature had taken place. But, we never had the chance to record the complaint. When we wanted to meet the OIC they told us that the OIC is available only in the afternoon. However, we did not wait till the OIC came as we had to go to hospital to look into our son.
DSG – Were you aware that the Welikada Police were conducting a probe into the accident?
Witness – No I was not aware.
DSG – Did any Police Officers record any statements from you, related to your son’s incident?
Witness – No none at all. After the change of Government, I wrote to both the President and the Prime Minister, highlighting the injustice caused to my son. Following this Police came and sought details from me.
DSG – Did any Police Officers arrive to record any statements from you?
Witness – When my son was in hospital, they came regularly and it was a nuisance. At one time a group of officers claiming to be from the Padukka Police and in civvies came to the hospital. When he was at the Ragama Hospital they recorded statements from my son who was then seriously ill and his fingerprints were also taken. My son struggled even to sign the document where the statements were recorded.
DSG – When Police Officers continued to arrive regularly didn’t you ask them why they were doing so?
Witness – I asked them. One day my son was taken in an ambulance to the Ragama Hospital. When we were about to get down from the ambulance two Police Officers who were there stated that they need to record a statement from my son. Then I told them to consider the state my son was in and if possible to obtain it.
DSG – Were you aware that a legal case had been filed regarding your son’s incident?
Witness – This Court informed us of it. We only came to realise that a previous case had been pending in Court via the local press. I went for around two days to witness that case.
DSG – How did you come to know about your son’s accident from your son’s friends who had witnessed the accident?
Witness – Two of my son’s friends had pursued the jeep that had caused the accident. After that they had got hold of the person in the jeep and when they had attempted to assault him with their helmets he identified himself as Patali Ranawaka.
DSG – To whom did you inform this incident?
Witness – Since the change of regime I decided to inform this incident through letters to both the President and the Prime Minister. I urged them to mete out justice to my son.
DSG – Before the change of regimes didn’t you bring this incident to the notice of any other State officer?
Witness – Yes, I visited the house of then Minister Patali Ranawaka and implored with him to help my son on nearly three occasions. I also urged him to help me to treat my son. As I didn’t receive any support and following the change of Government I sought the intervention of the current President and Prime Minister.
DSG – Did you visit the first accused?
Witness – Yes, I visited him at least thrice. I visited his Wijerama Place residence. I was accompanied by a person known as Danushka Ramanayake. I was given a cup of tea. The first time when I went to the Minister I urged him to at least send my son overseas and cure him. The Minister then said local doctors are there to treat him. I then went a third time and then pleaded him to help me to at least enable my son to walk again.
But, the Minister did not respond to my pleas. He only uttered that he will take care of it later. At the time I was not aware that there were legal cases filed against the Minister. He then brought a large stock of files and showed me the number of cases filed against him. I only made a humane request to the Minister as a people’s representative to help me to cure my son.
DSG – Were there any outsiders who visited your son?
Witness – At the initial stages around five MPs visited my son such as Wimal Weerawansa, Bandula Gunawardene and Dullas Alahapperuma to name a few. Afterwards they had spoken to my spouse. My spouse had vehemently opposed the politicisation of the incident and had told them that what was needed was to save our son.
DSG – Were you in need of some financial assistance to help cure your son?
Witness – Yes, I at one time met former President Maithripala Sirisena. He then invited me and inquired about my son’s condition. I then told him that both his arms have to be operated. The very next day Rs 1 million was given to me via the Presidential Secretariat. He was the only person who has helped us to date.
DSG – You mentioned that after the change of regime that you had written to the current President and Prime Minister. But, are you aware that the ongoing probe had begun only after that.
Witness – I handed over the letters to the Nelum Mawatha head office of the SLPP. Within a fortnight of handingover, Police Officers came to my house to record statements.
DSG – Are you also aware that since the change of regimes and after commencing a probe into the incident the suspects behind the accident had been arrested?
Witness – Yes, I am aware of it.
Accordingly the recording of witness testimony of the prosecution concluded and cross examination of the witness by the defence was fixed to be taken up on 11 January next year.
The second accused in the trial was identified as Dilum Thusitha Kumara who had masqueraded as the driver of the jeep involved in the accident with the three accused being indicted on 16 counts before the High Court.