AG’s withdrawal of murder charges illegal says lawyer

By Manopriya Gunasekara

Questioning the Attorney General’s withdrawal of murder charges and acquitting the accused in the Nampamunuwa murder case - former MP Chandana Kathriarachchi and three others - lawyer J.C. Weliamuna, watching the interests of the deceased said that the action was illegal.

Former MP Kathriarachchi and three others were charged for murdering a supporter of the opposition (UNP) at Nampamunuwa Salgaha Junction in Piliyandala during the Nampamunuwa Multi-Purpose Cooperative Society election in 2006.

Commenting on the Attorney General amending one complaint and withdrawing the rest of the complaints Mr. Weliamuna also made a request to courts to resume the hearing of the case.
Kathriarachchi and three others were initially accused of committing the murder of Kathrige Don Chandraratne on August 24, 2006. However the Attorney General later amended the changes to a lesser offence of causing injuries to Kathriarachchige Don Karunaratna.

Sunil Perera, Ruwan Chandana Fernando and Nihal Suresh are the other accused charged along with Chandana Kathriarachchi. An open warrant has been issued to arrest Nihal Suresh, who is in hiding and the Attorney General has decided to hold against him the original charges.

Mr. Weliamuna said it was strange that a part of the charges were withdrawn, another section amended and the rest held against an accused though the Attorney General’s defence for the amendment and withdrawal of charges was that the case has been pending in courts for a long period and contradictions exist in the evidence.

According to Section 194 (3) of the Penal Code, Mr. Weliamuna explained that to withdraw a lawsuit the court should be provided with reasons justifying the withdrawal and the permission of the court obtained. However, no such reason had been forwarded with regard to this case. He also said that the Attorney General does not have power to withdraw charges where there was plenty of evidence against the accused.

He said withdrawing the murder charges and forwarding the case to the Mediation Board to solve the matter of minor injuries made by the respondents was not just and such decisions made by the court too could be questioned as proved by the Udatalawinna case.

President’s Counsel Anil Silva, representing the first accused, said the Attorney General has the power to withdraw charges and that power cannot be challenged by anyone. He further explained that the court had granted permission to the request made by the Attorney General regarding this case. He requested that the appeal made under a wrong interpretation of the law be withdrawn.

Lawyer Ranjan Mendis appearing for Chandana Kathriarachchi said that the accused in this case were not pardoned but had pleaded guilty to the charges. He added that according to the facts forwarded to the Attorney General, the decision was made to amend the charges against the accused and that could be done by any State Counsel with the consent of the Attorney General.

Representatives for the Attorney General, Senior State Counsel Dileepa Peiris said that the charges were amended and withdrawn according to Section 194 (3) of the Penal Code. In this case, Mr. Peiris said the complainant party has not listed any verdicts to prove that there was a legal error or a misleading of the court. He requested the court to give its verdict.

He also said that giving into the request of the lawyer watching the interests of the deceased would set a bad precedent. Mr. Weliamuna countered by saying the bad example would be if he withdraws his request, not in making it.

Considering the facts forwarded, the judge requested written statements before March 30 and scheduled the next hearing for April 1.

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