Writ petition filed against implementing death penalty
By S.S. Selvanayagam
When questioned by the Appeal Court, Prisons Commissioner General yesterday assured that no prisoner would be executed within the next seven days from yesterday.
He gave this undertaking when the writ petition against the implementation of the death sentence was taken up by Court of Appeal Bench comprising Justices Yasantha Kodagoda (President) and Arjuna Obeyesekere.
On this basis Counsel for the petitioner moved to support the writ petition next week with Court fixing the date for support on Tuesday.
Petitioner Malinda Seneviratne, a senior journalist, cited the Commissioner General of Prisons, Welikada Prisons Superintendent, Welikada Prison Executioner and the Attorney General as respondents.
Counsel Niran Anketel with Hafeel Farisz instructed by Vidanapathirana Associates appeared for the petitioner while Deputy Solicitor General Nerin Pulle appeared for the Commissioner General of Prisons and the Attorney General.
Petitioner in his public interest litigation stated that it was in the interest of the public that the rule of law be adhered to in all matters including the carrying out of sentences imposed by courts of law.
He said various steps have been taken towards reintroducing the implementation of the death sentence in the recent past including advertising for the recruitment of an executioner, the procurement and/or preparation of the required ropes.
The petitioner said on or about June 26, the President at a conference with heads of media institutions revealed that he had signed papers for the execution of the death sentence and that
four persons would be executed with the executions to be conducted soon on the days already decided.
He said in this application and in these proceedings he did not seek to impugn the said actions of the President but that he believed the death penalty offends the Constitution and is a barbaric practice.
The petitioner said an executioner is not entitled in law to execute a person sentenced to death and that the superintendent of prisons was not entitled in law to cause any other person to execute a person sentenced to death.
He said the execution of persons sentenced to death by one and/or more of the respondents as set out herein, their servants, agents and those holding under them would be (a) Prohibited by law and the Constitution (b) A violation of the rights of citizens and that of the public inclusive of the petitioner and the petitioner himself (c ) Ultra vires (d) Arbitrary, irrational, capricious, vexatious and unreasonable (e) Action that offends and is in breach of the principles of reasonableness, fairness, proportionality, legitimate expectation, natural justice and motivated by improper objectives.
The petitioner said thus and otherwise, the imminent decisions and/or actions of one or more of the Respondents to execute prisoners sentenced to death and/or to execute prisoners sentenced to death through any servant, agent and person would be unlawful, void ab initio and of no force or effect in law.
He is seeking an interim order preventing the respondents from executing the sentence of death on any person until the final hearing and determination of this application and is pleading for a writ of prohibition restraining the respondents from executing a sentence of death on any person.
The petitioner is also seeking court to grant and issue a mandate in the nature of a writ of certiorari quashing the decision to execute a sentence of death on any person.
Various steps have been taken to reintroduce the implementation of the death sentence in the recent past including advertising for the recruitment of an executioner