Rajagiriya 2016 Hit-and-Run: Champika Indicted
By Hansi Nanayakkara
Former Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka was indicted, in the Colombo High Court yesterday, in connection with the 2016 hit-and-run incident, which resulted in life threatening injuries to a youth named Sandeep Sampath.
Ranawaka has been charged with reckless driving and failure to prevent an accident. The aggrieved party, Sandeep Sampath, was present in court for the first time since the accident.
When the case was taken up before High Court Judge Namal Walalle, the accused SJB MP was present in Court and the charges against filed against him were read out in Open Court.
A junior lawyer who appeared on behalf of defence lawyer President’s Counsel Anuja Premaratne, told the Court that as the senior counsel had gone to receive the COVID-19 jab, he would submit his initial objections pertaining to the charges filed against the MP at the next hearing.
Deputy Solicitor General Dileepa Peiris, representing the Attorney General told Court that the prosecution was opposed to it.
Peiris informed the Court that the accused had been indicted before the High Court on 9 July last year and later summons had been issued on the accused before handing over the indictments to him on 21 October.
Peiris stated that later the accused had been enlarged on bail and the case had been fixed for yesterday and under such circumstances the defence seeking time to raise initial objections cannot be condoned.
He told the Judge that after accepting indictments filed before the previous High Court Judge Dhammika Ganepola, the defence had the opportunity to file its objections based on Section 37 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Peiris informed the Judge that the actions of the defence in attempting to subtly delay trial proceedings of this nature would have to be ended with the intervention of the Court.
He mentioned that as a junior lawyer had come forward to make submissions on behalf of the defence, the prosecution on this occasion would not look to unsettle him unduly.
He then urged the Court to issue an order to the Secretary of the Ministry of Finance to furnish the vehicle bearing number WPKT7545 to Court at the next hearing.
The said vehicle has been named as a major Court production in the trial as it is the vehicle that had been engaged in the hit-and-run incident involving Ranawaka.
The witnesses Sandeep Sampath Gunawardene, Siddique Mohammad Sufai, Nimitha Harsha Bandara and Dayananda Gunawardene were present in Court to give evidence in the trial proceedings.
Peiris then urged Judge Walalle to issue summons once more to the first witness in the case KM Gayashan, as he had failed to turn up in Court to give testimony yesterday.
Accordingly, the Court reissued summons on the first witness and the other witnesses who were present were advised to reappear when summoned in the future.
The Court also ordered the motorcycle involved in the accident to also be produced as a Court production at the next trial date.
Taking the submissions, made by both the prosecution and the defence, into consideration, the High Court Judge deferred further hearing to 27 April in order to consider the raising of initial objections by the defence.
The hit-and-run incident which occurred at Rajagiriya on 29 February 2016 resulted in two youths, namely Sandeep Sampath and Manula Abeysundera, suffering life threatening injuries.
Later, Dilum Thusitha Kumara was named as a suspect by the Welikada Police, in the Colombo Chief Magistrate’s Court on 30 February.
Following that the suspect had pleaded guilty to the charges filed against him and the Court had ended the case proceedings.
However, the Colombo Crimes Division (CCD) had made fresh submissions before the Court concerning the case. Colombo Additional Magistrate Kanchana Neranjana de Silva, based on a request made to her by the CCD issued an order to impound the passports of Ranawaka and Thusitha Kumara, who had posed off as the ex-Minister’s driver on 13 December 2019.
Later, the CCD arrested Ranawaka at his residence on 18 December 2019 on charges of causing grievous injuries to youth Sandeep Sampath, changing of the driver after the accident, fleeing after committing a traffic accident and concealment of information from the Police.
He was then produced in Court on the night of the same day after which he was ordered to be remanded for a 24-hour period and when he was again produced in Court the suspect ex-Minister was ordered to be remanded till Christmas Eve on 2019.
When Ranawaka was produced in Court at the said date the Colombo Additional Magistrate ordered the suspect to be enlarged on cash bail of Rs. 25.000 and on two sureties of Rs. 500.000 each.
He was also ordered to appear before the CCD on each last Sunday of the month and to desist from intimidating the witnesses for the prosecution.
The second suspect in the case Dilum Thusitha Kumara was also produced in Court on the same day and he was then ordered to be remanded by the Colombo Additional Magistrate in connection with the case.
When the case was subsequently called the remanded second suspect Dilum Thusitha Kumara was ordered to be enlarged on bail on 6 January last year.
Later, the second suspect, filing a motion through his lawyer, urged the Court on 13 and 22 January last year to allow him to make a confidential statement based on provisions contained in Section 127 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Accordingly the second suspect gave his confidential statement to Court lasting over 1 hour in the official chamber of the Magistrate on 29 January 2020.
Later the AG named ex-OIC of the Welikada Police and ASP Sudath Asmadala as the third suspect in the trial on charges of compilation and submission of false evidence.
When the case was taken up before the Colombo Additional Magistrate’s Court on 24 June last year the prosecution informed that the probe into the case had been concluded.
The prosecution had told the Magistrate’s Court that the AG had filed indictments against the accused before the High Court and afterwards the Additional Magistrate had advised the accused to be present before the High Court when noticed.
The AG has indicted the SJB MP before the High Court on four counts and on charges of causing a hit-and run accident while being the driver of the vehicle bearing number WPKT7545 on 28 February five years ago, causing a grievous injury while driving a vehicle recklessly, fleeing after committing the accident sans reporting it to the Police, failing to take action concerning the injured, failing to control the speed of his vehicle and for flouting provisions contained in Sections 149, 216, 224, 161 (4), 214, 224 of the Motor Traffic Act and provisions contained in Section 329 of the Penal Code through his actions.
Furthermore the AG had filed a separate case before the High Court against the three accused Ranawaka, Thusitha Kumara and Asmadala respectively.