Colombo, October 1 (Sunday Times): Like the fallout from the disclosures made in the Dispatches programme by Britain’s Channel 4, the government was worried over a new campaign that has been launched in social media abroad. This was over the resignation of Mullaitivu District Judge and Magistrate T. Saravanarajah. He had cited the order he delivered in the Kurunthoormalai case and claimed there were threats to his life. The Sunday Times learnt that moves to stop him before he left the country came too late.
The Department of Archaeology has been trying to build allegedly in violation of the court order a Buddhist Temple in Kurunthoormalai. The order concerned declared that the Archaeology Department Director had repeatedly violated three court orders previously issued and tried to build a Buddhist vihara illegally. Since delivering this order, Saravanarajah has been under threat, it was claimed. First to what the social media tried to make out quoting him:
X – “Constant pressure was applied by the government to reverse the orders I had issued in Kurunthoornalai case.
X – Members of Parliament and others belonging to the majority community have issued threats against my life, both in Parliament as well as outside it.
X – The police protection afforded to me (the judge) was recently reduced, whilst the intelligence officers continued to surveil me.
X – The Attorney General invited me (Judge) to meet him in his office on 21.09.2023 and during the meeting he compelled me to reverse the orders that I had issued in the Kurunthoormalai case.
X – Moreover, two cases have been filed against me personally in the Court of Appeal in connection with the Kurunthoormalai case.
X – I have had to resign from all my judicial posts due to life threats, pressures, and harassments that I have been subjected to since delivering the order. The above said are just a handful of examples of the threats, pressures, and harassments I received.
X – I sent the resignation letter to the Secretary of the Judicial Services Commission through registered post on 23-09-2023.
X – This incident demonstrates the state of rule of law in the island. If a Tamil judge is subjected to such threats, one can only imagine the conditions under which the Tamil people are suffering, let alone Tamil activists.
A high-ranking Attorney General’s Department source, who did not wish to be identified for obvious reasons, answered the accusations. According to the source, Saravanarajah is seeking asylum in a foreign country. He said:
The judge is the 1st Respondent in three (3) Writ Applications 474, 482 and 528 of 2023. He has been named in person, whereby his several orders are sought to be quashed and mala fides levelled against him. Following a request (dated 14th September) made to the Judicial Service Commission by the District Judge and Magistrate, the AG was directed to assign counsel to undertake his defence. A copy of this letter had also been sent to him. The Sunday Times has seen the correspondence in this regard.
In total there are seven (7) Writ Applications filed apart from Saravanarajah, his predecessor Judge has also been named as a Respondent challenging his order made when he was Magistrate, Mullaitivu.
A written request was made by Judge Saravanarajah through the Judicial Service Commission to the Attorney General to safeguard his interest in the above-named cases.
Pursuant to his request, a consultation was held with the Judge in the AG’s Chambers with the participation of three Senior Counsel who are handling these cases.
Being a Judge, courtesies were extended to him to have the consultation in the Attorney General’s Chambers.
It has to be noted that the Judge attended this consultation as a client meeting his Lawyers, fiduciary relationship. Notwithstanding the fact he is a Judge, he was a client as he was a named Respondent in three Applications.
He was not summarily summoned. The meeting took place pursuant to his written request.
At the meeting, there was no pressure exerted on him and it was very cordial. The judge gave instructions and we discussed with him various issues.
It was stressed by the Counsel that the Court of Appeal will be apprised that the practice of naming sitting judges as Respondents should be eschewed and the judge should be discharged. Without prejudice to the above various other legal issues were discussed, to which the Judge agreed. Since the matters are sub judice, it is inappropriate to discuss advice given to a Client by his Lawyer. However, the submissions to be made to the Court of Appeal were made known to him.
It is stressed that at no stage was any pressure exerted on the Judge to change his orders.
The Attorney General could have taken the path of least resistance and refused to appear for the Judge and asked him to retain his own Counsel. Such a course of action was not followed and was acted on his instructions and advised him on the proposed submissions we were to make in the Court of Appeal.