Yasantha justifies move to amend Judicature Act


By Chitra Weerarathne

The schematic classification of offences in the Bill to Amend the Judicature Act referred to serious financial and economic crimes of a very serious nature. If the new Bill was enacted a group of specialised High Court Judges would hear such cases, said Additional Solicitor General, Yasantha Kodagoda, PC in the Supreme Court, yesterday.

At the outset ASG Kodagoda said that with the creation of the Provincial High Courts, Parliament had not abolished the High Court of the Republic of Sri Lanka. Parliament had created a new High Court and conferred thereon the original criminal jurisdiction of the High Court of the Republic.

The High Court existed and needed to exist. The Provincial High Court had a similar, parallel jurisdiction. It could conduct a trial-at-bar, Kodagoda argued.

The criminal jurisdiction is conferred by the Judicature Act.

Judicature Act in Section (2) listed out all the Courts, which had criminal jurisdiction in the first instance. Those courts were High Courts, the District Courts and the Magistrate’s Courts, the counsel argued. The Judicature Act also provided for the jurisdiction of the High Courts of the country.

It specified the territorial ambit of the High Courts, the type of persons and the types of offences that could be handled by the High Courts.

The offence of piracy could be tried in the High Court.

The offence must be linked to the sovereignty of Sri Lanka in view of the registration of a ship or an aircraft if a Sri Lankan committed a murder in the Middle East, he could be tried in the High Court of the Republic of Sri Lanka, Kodagoda said. The offender had to be a Sri Lankan.

If the offence was committed in the territory of Sri Lanka Section 9/2, of the Judicature Act, specified which High Court of the Republic should conduct the trial unless the Chief Justice directed otherwise, the Supreme Court was told.

If the offence was committed outside Sri Lanka, the Chief Justice would nominate the High Court which would hold the trial.

The proposed amendment to the Judicature Act referred to the mode of hearing by the High Courts, Kodagoda argued.

At present the first mode was the procedure by a judge without a jury. The second was trial by jury before a High Court judge. The third mode of hearing criminal cases was by three judges of the High Court sitting without a jury. That was commonly referred to as trial-at-bar.

The present debate was on the third mode of hearing the cases, the counsel said.

The Chief Justice decided on the need to appoint a trial-at-bar in respect of any specific offence.

The schematic classification of the offences in the Bill to Amend the Judicature Act referred to financial and economic crimes.

Financial and Economic crimes could be very complex. Proper Administration of Criminal Justice was needed.

Complex, financial and economic crimes had been seen in the Central Bank bond scams, the Additional Solicitor General said.

If the new Bill was enacted by Parliament, a group of separate High Court Judges identified by the Judicial Services Commission would hear complex economic and financial crimes.

The bench comprised Chief Justice Priyasath Dep, Justice Buwaneka Aluwihare and Justice Nalin Perera.

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