Justice without mercy is a tyranny - Editorial

11 February 2013 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The reported theft of coconuts by a schoolgirl to find the money to pay for colour-washing her school premises and the subsequent ordeal she had to undergo especially from the law enforcement authorities has hit media headlines. The report had drawn the attention of President Rajapaksa who instructed Ministers of Education and Justice to probe and take action against anyone responsible for this pathetic incident.  

Confusion and contradictions are confounding this report with the Horana school principal claiming that the whole story was manufactured by an area politician.   
The Justice Ministry has blamed the police and the Acting Magistrate for putting the innocent girl in the same dock where hardcore criminals like murderers, rapists and heroin smugglers are held.

According to Justice Ministry Secretary the girl’s case should have first been referred to the Mediation Board instead of taking her straight to courts.  Ministry Secretary Kamalini de Silva said in terms of the latest amendment to the Mediation Board Act, if the suspect was a minor and the amount involved was less than Rs. 5000, the matter should have been referred to the Mediation Board. She said both the police and the judicial officer might have been unaware of the amendments.Ignorance of the law apart, are we losing the virtue of mercy for human beings and in this particular instance the life and future of a poor innocent village girl who might carry a social stigma for the rest of her life? Justice without mercy is tyranny and the legal authorities need to understand this.  

It was not long ago that a somewhat similar and shocking incident was reported in the Supreme Court when a rights action was filed by Lawyers for Human Rights and Development (LHRD), an organisation fighting to safeguard citizen’s rights. The LHRD had referred to a person serving as many as 117 years of hard labour for offences he was said to have committed as a child. The man had complained that while he had actually committed some of the petty thefts, in others he was falsely implicated as several police stations had forced him to plead guilty. The police had forced him to do so, misleading him with false law points. Forcing him to plead guilty, the police had told him that he would be treated as a juvenile offender and given a maximum sentence of only three years for all the offences and the sentence would run concurrently.

Having pleaded guilty to a large number of offences he had not committed, and Magistrates imposed sentences disregarding his age, this case of double jeopardy became a triple jeopardy when he had gone to prison where the authorities there miscalculated his jail terms and imposed on him not a concurrent jail term but a consecutive one which meant he would have to be in jail for 117 years.  

This case came to light only after he spent 24 years in jail when the LHRD conducted a survey. According to the LHRD this was one of hundreds of similar incidents.
We hope the case of the poor coconut girl would bring about a situation where the police and legal authorities temper justice with mercy.
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