SC accepts CEJ’s amended petition
By Faadhila Thassim
The Supreme Court accepted the amended petition filed by the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ), challenging the Cabinet Decision instructing the Attorney General to release elephants under the care of Government authorities to those who claim to be their private owners, while rejecting objections raised by the AG’s Department on behalf of the Government.
The Cabinet decision was taken based on a joint Cabinet memorandum by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and R.M.C.B. Ratnayake, Minister of Wildlife and Forest Conservation, that sought the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers to withdraw all cases in which legal action is being taken at present and to hand over these animals to their present owners according to the conditions of transferring these animals.
The case was taken up before Supreme Court Justices E.A.G.R. Amarasekara, K.K. Wickremasinghe and Janak De Silva.
It was stated that the Cabinet decision itself is not the act which, as has been alleged, would constitute an infringement of the fundamental rights of petitioners, but that it is only when the AG, if he chooses to do so, acts on the impugned Cabinet decision that there may be, as alleged, an infringement of the fundamental rights of the petitioners. “The AG is vested with extensive statutory powers in relation to criminal investigations and prosecutions. Such powers are held in public trust and they must be exercised for the due administration of justice according to the rule of law, which is the basis of our Constitution.