Police foil move to exploit SC judgment in favour of moonshine dealers

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Director Legal, Police Headquarters, DIG Ajith Rohana yesterday told The Island that a recent ruling given by Galle Chief Magistrate A. Nishantha Peiris cleared the way for a vigorous campaign against those engaged in illicit moonshine trade.

Former police spokesman and attorney-at-law Rohana said that the Galle Chief Magistrate had ruled that the police could move court on the basis of Excise Ordinance against the backdrop of Kalutara High Court as well as Kalutara Chief Magistrate Bharathi Wijeratne declaring that law enforcement authorities could not act on the Excise Ordinance.

The Galle Chief Magistrate issued the ruling subsequent to police and lawyers representing those who had been engaged in the transportation of kasippu made representations in the Galle Chief Magistrate court on April 27.

DIG Rohana made representations on behalf of the police. Rohana was assisted by attorney-at-law SP Ruwan Gunasekera, a former police spokesman.

DIG Rohana said in court that a Supreme Court judgment given in 2011 in respect of a case regarding the violation of excise license couldn’t apply in this particular case. DIG Rohana pointed out that the SC ruling hadn’t given kassippu dealers an opportunity to continue their illegal trade with impunity. The DIG explained that the then SC justice Nimal Gamini Amaratunga had ruled that the police were empowered to detect violation of excise license though they couldn’t file action as the Excise Department was the license issuing authority.

DIG Rohana alleged that an attempt was being made to use SC judgment as a judicial precedent for the benefit of those engaged in kassippu trade.

The senior policeman cited a ruling given by the Court of Appeal in 2010 and then upheld by the Supreme Court four years later in respect of powers enjoyed by excise as well as police officers in terms of the Excise Ordinance to justify police headquarters stand. The Galle Chief Magistrate court has been told that the police could fully utilize the Excise Ordinance except for filing action in respect of violation of excise licenses.

Responding to a query by The Island, DIG Rohana said that they had sought Attorney General’s intervention to move the Court of Appeal against recent rulings given by the Kalutara Chief Magistrate as well as the Kalutara High Court. Comparing the judgments given by superior courts (Supreme Court and Court of Appeal) and High Court, DIG Rohana underscored that High Court judgments weren’t binding. Therefore, the ruling given by the Galle High Court wouldn’t have an impact on similar cases, DIG Rohana said, adding that another case challenging the law enforcement authorities authority would come up before the Matara Chief Magistrate’s court on May 5.

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