Sil cloth case: Musthapha PC upbraids CHC Judge
By Kamal Weeraratna
Faiz Musthapha PC making submissions to the Court of Appeal on 24 September said it was only the gods that would know the true motive of the Colombo High Court (CHC) Judge Gihan Kulatunga, who convicted former President’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunga and ex-Head of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC), Anusha Pelpita, over charges of the misappropriation of State funds towards the distribution of Sil cloth during the lead up to the 2015 Presidential Poll.
He further pointed out that Kulatunga had given his verdict of the said case, at a time when nine witnesses out of 10 had completed giving their testimony in the trial.
Musthapha alleged that Judge Kulatunga, had taken over the job of the Lawyer for the prosecution as well during the trial proceedings.
He said that Kulatunga had proceeded to ask 51 initial questions and 244 cross examination questions from the accused Weeratunga, before posing 91 questions and in overall 386 queries to the first witness to the trial, Director (Finance) of the TRC, Malika Jayaratne. Musthapha alleged that the manner, in which Judge Kulatunga had acted with preconceived notions to convict his clients for an offence that they had not committed, had been most humiliating and insulting.
The appeal petitions filed by Weeratunga and Pelpita against their convictions by the Colombo High Court over the Sil cloth case were perused before a two-Judge Bench of the Court of Appeal, comprising Justices Kumuduni Wickremasinghe and Devika Abeyratne. Besides, Musthapha, petitioner Weeratunga was represented by Attorney-at-Law Keerthi Thillakaratne.
They both claimed that while perusing the verdict given by Judge Kulatunga, it was patently clear that the latter had acted with predetermined notions to convict their client, and hence charged that the actions of the said Judge had even been in violation of the accepted legal procedures and detrimental to the process of meting out justice. Pelpita was represented in Court by Shavindra Fernando PC, supported by Attorneys Kanchana Ratwatte and Janaka Ranatunga.
The lawyers argued that Kulatunga had proceeded to convict their client Pelpita clearly and intentionally disregarding the fact that the funds used for the distribution of Sil clothes had been facilitated through the Finance Regulation Code.
Accordingly, the Lawyers for the two petitioners urged Court to ponder the issues raised by them and issue an order to invalidate the conviction imposed on them by the Colombo High Court. Further proceedings of the trial were fixed for 30 September.