The Judge was one of those who comprised the three-Judge High Court Bench that heard it.
Date - 2017, 09, 12 Time – 2.56 p.m.: The conversation is as follows;
Ranjan – The President is here, explain your story to him.
Ranjan – (slowly) Padmini M. Ranawaka
President Maithri – Hello
Judge Padmini – Mr. President,
Judge Padmini – Forgive me for troubling you
President Maithri – No issue
Judge Padmini – If you can, try to give me a position in the Court of Appeal. I have given over 100.000 judgments. Also I have worked very candidly on behalf of this country. Hence, I request you to consider this plea off mine only if possible. I can also work for a few more years.
President Maithri – Ok, Ok
Judge Padmini – I have never before made such requests to anyone.
Judge Padmini – Despite whatever threats that are made to me, I always try to do the right thing. I had in fact done my duty in this manner for the past 27 years. I also gave the verdict in the Duminda case. The other Judges were afraid to preside over the Chandrika bomb case.
President Maithri – Yes, Yes.
Judge Padmini – It consisted of large files. Then I agreed to hear it.
Judge Padmini – I did so to mete out justice. I had never exerted pressure. I am only making a request. Try to consider it if only you can. I wish you more strength.
President Maithri – Ok Thank you.
Ranjan – I will try to give you a call later madam.
The Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra case, as the aforesaid events show, has now turned out to be a miscarriage of justice. This was evident after the audio tapes possessed by then UNP MP Ranjan Ramanayake came into the spotlight. It was also the first time in this country’s history that politicians, officers of the CID and Judges had plotted and conspired from behind the scene towards a miscarriage of justice concerning a high profile murder trial and ultimately it was R. Duminda Silva who was forced to pay for the sins of these people by being convicted and sent to the death row for a crime that he had not committed.
All persons are equal before the law as per Article 12 (1), 13 (3), 13 (4) of the Constitution and those who are accused should be convicted only after a detailed and thorough hearing. But, the question here is whether justice was meted out to Silva. When a verdict is issued in a murder trial each Judge is known to submit their observations separately. They are also known to explain in detail as to why they had reached such a verdict and then place their signatures below it. But, in this case that never happened.
President of the three-Judge Bench Justice Shiran Gunaratne had stated in his verdict that Duminda Silva is not guilty of the murder of Premachandra. The other Judge who was on that Bench, Chamath Moraes, though he had claimed that Silva is guilty of the murder he had not explained his decision. However, Judge Padmini Ranawaka had stated that Silva was guilty of the crime and she had also explained the reasons for it. Hence, Silva was condemned to the gallows as two of the Judges of the Bench found the defendant guilty. Justice Ranawaka had said that Silva was being convicted as per provisions contained in Section 283 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Usually, in Open Court, the Judges are required to explain why they reached verdicts in cases over which they had presided. However, this Bench had not adhered to this principle. They also need to make written notes before signing. This too had not been followed. Therefore, it is evident that these Judges had not followed the judicial protocol that is practised here.
Hence, the question that has to be asked is whether a person could be convicted in a trial that has not been conducted in keeping with the accepted judicial procedures of this country. It is also clear that the verdict of this case had been reached beforehand following a drama played out behind the scenes. It has also been proved that in the murder case it was Silva who had been shot at first. In fact, he had suffered grievous injuries. The Bench also seems to have ignored the fact that a person who was down on the ground suffering grievous injuries had attempted to take another person’s life.
Judge Ranawaka in her verdict had said that it was not material whether Silva had been fired at first or not. But, now it is clear that fact had been overlooked by those who had convicted Silva as it was part of the conspiracy. Before the verdict was given in this case, another conversation that took place between Ramanayake and former CID Director Shani Abeysekara also came to light through the audio tapes.
Ranjan – Good evening, will we get bad news tomorrow?
Shani – No there will certainly be good news. Aren’t you coming to Court Sir?
Ranjan – Try to not change it. Don’t try to dash our hopes.
Shani – No it will not change. But, it will be written to free the middle one.
Ranjan – Who is this middle one?
Shani – Chairman. But, that is no issue we have the other two.
Ranjan – Padmini is ok isn’t it?
Ranjan – Will it go to the Supreme Court?
Shani – In any case it is sent to the SC. Aren’t you coming to Court?
Ranjan – Will it be good for me to come? Will it show that we are involved in this affair?
Shani – If you are coming to all other corruption cases what is wrong in coming to this one?
Ranjan – Will it come to light that I had given a call?
Shani – No, it will not be revealed. Try to come. After giving the front place to Harin why are you going behind the scene?
Ranjan – I need not say it again.
Shani – No need we’ll see after it is all over.
Ranjan – Thank you. Can’t you get the middle one to our side?
Shani – No need as there are two
others. We have the majority.
Ranjan – Ok then try not to disappoint us tomorrow morning.
Shani – The disappointment has now turned into good news.
Shani – Try to be there Sir, if not no use.
What we need to ask here is, has such a controversial conversation ever taken place between a politician and a top CID officer investigating a murder case. This takes the biscuit. It is due to these reasons that we claim that a gross injustice has been meted out to Duminda Silva in this so-called murder trial and hence he should be granted a Presidential pardon at least. Also, the pressure that has been exerted by this politician on a High Court Judge and a top officer of the CID is massive to force them to convict Silva. It was also revealed to Court that 22 phone conversations had taken place between the trio.
The conversations had taken place from 14 July 2016 to 11 September last year.
Ranjan-Shani 21 minutes, 27 seconds on 10 May 2016 at 12.46p.m.
Ranjan – Shani is it you?
Ranjan – I am one Ranjan Ramanayake.
Shani – Sir, good afternoon.
Ranjan – How are you? I called you to convey my wishes. So you haven’t recorded my number.
Shani – No. I have saved your number.
Ranjan – Have you honestly saved it?
Shani – You only gave it to me Sir.
Ranjan – I forgot. Are you now a SSP or a SP?
Ranjan – That is good news. Tell me whether you are in a place where I can talk to you openly.
Ranjan – Nothing untoward happened and the case is over isn’t it.
Shani – No there is nothing wrong. Nine will go Sir.
Ranjan – I was elated with what you told me the other day.
Shani – Yes Sir, now the evidence is over and only the submissions. The oral and written submissions are ready if the Judges were to seek it. They will give a date. It will be taken after the 24th.
Ranjan – So there is nothing for us to be afraid of the verdict.
Shani – No there is nothing whatsoever to be afraid of.
Ranjan-Shani (28 minutes, 39 seconds) 25 July 2016 Time – 12.12 p.m.
Shani – Sir, this is urgent can I talk to you?
Shani – I beg you Sir try not to talk to anyone regarding that case or it will become an issue.
Shani – Yes Sir, I beg you not to.
Shani – Try to keep mum as the case has reached a climax for us. What you told me also could get blown up but, I will try to balance it.
Shani – Try to keep silent. Do not tell anyone what you know.
Ranjan – Is the issue ok?
Shani – Yes the issue is ok. Try not to give calls to Ranawaka Madam. If so we all will be in big trouble.
Ranjan – I called her and said that this is a verdict that the entire country is waiting to hear. At that moment she said someone had come and hung up the phone.
Shani – Is that the only thing that was discussed with her?
Ranjan – There was nothing more to it. If you happen to talk to her again then she too might join the other Judge and create havoc in the verdict.
Anyone listing to these conversations could see it for themselves as to how low this country’s judiciary has stooped. In fact, a High Court Judge stooping to this low level to seek promotion to a higher Court is unfathomable. Three-wheeler driver Venura Kushantha had handed over these audio tapes to the Western Province Southern Division Crimes Unit on 2 January this year. Later, the CCD produced the audio tapes as Court productions before the Nugegoda Chief Magistrate’s Court on 14 January concerning a probe being conducted into charges of intimidating High Court Judges. The behind the scenes conversations only came to the fore afterwards.
The appeal submitted to the Supreme Court by Silva against his conviction by the High Court also ended in a similar manner. The Supreme Court too upheld the verdict of the High Court. But, the question that has to be posed is if the audio tapes had been in public domain before the Supreme Court had considered Silva’s appeal petition, would the Apex Court have agreed with the verdict issued by the High Court.
Ranjan-Padmini 1 minute, 20 seconds on 14 July 2016 at 9.33 p.m.
Ranjan – Madam sorry, for troubling you at this Godforsaken hour.
Ranjan – I am Ranjan Ramanayake.
Judge Padmini – Yes Mr. Ramanayake. Wait a moment, someone is coming.
Ranjan – I am at home. I am talking to you with much respect. In fact, I saw today’s paper and decided to talk to you. The country is waiting for your verdict. It is also good news to hear you being one of the Judges on the Bench.
Ranjan – We are waiting for something positive to happen.
Ranjan – I rang to wish you God’s speed and God bless you.
Ranjan-Shani 13 minutes, 6 seconds on 12 September 2016 Time 10.41 p.m.
Shani – Good evening Sir.
Worker – I am from the office. Try to be on the line.
Shani – Good evening Sir.
Ranjan – Good evening. How is everything? My hero.
Shani – Don’t say that Sir. I am only a State officer who is doing my job efficiently.
Ranjan – Even among State officers there are rotten apples. Even among Judges there are similar fellows.
Shani – Now the assault is on Solangaarachchi’s wife and the pointing of a firearm to the stomach of an STF officer was unexpected.
Ranjan – When LTTE weapons were found, 14 of them had arrived here. How can he acquit a person who had murdered four? Who is this bastard? He would have earned millions. Isn’t his name Guneratne.
Ranjan – We will continue to criticise him. We will not leave him alone.
Shani – Try not to promote him from his present place.
Ranjan – Yes. But, our Madam gave the works.
Shani – She was terrific. But, though you are not aware you did a great job.
Shani – The call that you gave to Madam.
Ranjan – Don’t say that, I will be in prison. (laughing)
Shani – That is why she was so ice cool.
Ranjan – If they know it, they will attack me. Even Madam was a bit rattled, wasn’t she?
Shani – I only did what was best for us.
Ranjan – I think my call to Madam had an impact.
It is clear that at the time the Supreme Court perused the divided verdict issued against Duminda Silva, by the High Court, had the audio tapes been in wide circulation the Supreme Court would have acquitted Silva without a doubt. This murder trial has proved to all and sundry that justice and its norms had been conveniently kicked out of the window by those very same people who had been tasked with meting out justice to those charged with committing an act of crime. In fact this, had not been the only occasion where miscarriage of justice has taken place in the world. A clear case in point had been the case heard in the UK Lazarus Estate Limited versus Beasley (56QB702). Lord Denning had stated that if any verdict issued by a Court is later proved to have been reached through illegal means or any other unlawful act, then such verdicts would have to be deemed as null and void. In the United Kingdom cases of the Buckingham 6 and the Guildford 4 it was later disclosed after a lapse of 13 years that the verdict had been reached through unlawful means. The Court later deemed that the verdict was null and void and ordered the defendants to be acquitted from the charged files against them and released them from the case.
It is clear, beyond a reasonable doubt, from this evidence that an innocent person has been sent to the gallows. A few people have misused the country’s criminal justice system to wrongfully convict a person who had not even intended to murder another person. Should the society stand back and continue to watch and allow Duminda Silva to languish in prison for any longer?
He should be released to reinstate the integrity and independence of the judiciary. And, in doing so, it can restore public faith in the judiciary of the country. This grave wrong must be righted. Given all these evidence, there is no impediment to releasing Duminda Silva from prison, according to the terms of Article 34 of the Constitution.