By Kelum Bandara and Yohan Perera
The Supreme Court has suggested several amendments to be incorporated in the Assistance to and Protection of Crime and Witnesses Bill to ensure its clarity and consistency with the Constitution.
The determination, communicated to Parliament, was announced by Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody who chaired the session.
Six petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the new legislation. The clause 3 (a) of the bill provides that a victim be treated with equality and fairness with regard to his dignity and privacy. However, Article 12 (1) of the constitutions postulates that there shall be equal treatment in equal circumstances, and there shall not be any discrimination among victims based on their dignity and privacy.
In this instance, the Court has suggested an amendment to avoid victims being discriminated. Also, the Court has determined that the words 'relevant authorities' should be clarified. The determination says that the word 'legal counsel' may be interpreted to mean a foreign counsel. The Deputy Solicitor General has agreed to substitute it for the Attorney General.
Besides, the Supreme Court says that the Bill should make sure that the 'Protection Fund' to be established, does not get money from court fines. Clause 28(1) (a) ii of the Bill permits High Court, Magistrate Court to impose a fine on convicts. However, the fines imposes by courts are collected by the provincial councils as it is a subject matter devolved to them. That is the reason for the Supreme Court to determine that the proposed Protection Fund does not get money from such court fines.