For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
The Police Officers who raided the office of Sri Lanka Mirror and Sri Lanka X News at Kotte on 29th June took its equipment and nine persons serving there into custody. Among them was even the woman preparing tea for the office staff. The Police having taken them into custody, produced them before the Magistrate’s Court the next day.The Police stated that these people were taken into custody under Section 118 of the Penal Code. But, since this Section on the Law of Criminal Defamation has been repealed under Act No. 12 of 2002, the Magistrate ordered to release them all on Police bail.
There is no legal basis whatsoever for the Police to take persons into custody under a law which is not in force. That amounts to a violation of not only the law in the country, but also the Police Code of Discipline. Equally, it is an infringement of the right for expression established under Section 14 (1) B of the Constitution. The Government kept passively watching while the Police was thus violating the law.
Therefore, we have a justifiable doubt as to whether this is a club-law of the Government. The question initially arising here is whether the Government in fact is going to protect the right for expression. The question also arises here as to who has given the permission and orders to the Policemen to engage in such an unlawful action. What is the basis of that illegal act? Who wanted it done?
These officers have contravened Sections 1 and 2 under Schedule B of Police Code of Discipline. It is a punishable offence to engage in such undisciplined actions. Equally, the Police has no room whatsoever at this point to slip out of their responsibility on the pretext of their ignorance of law. The Section No. 118 of the Criminal Procedure Code was amended 10 years ago. Stating that they are still not aware of the amendments made 10 years ago and saying that they are ignorant of the law are not excuses.
The Charter resolved at the 107th Convention of the World Inspectors General of Police held in 1997 states that the first duty of a Police Officer is to execute law. Acting outside the law is also a contravention of that Charter.
I would like to ask here as to what are the legal actions that will be taken against the Police Officers who acted in contravention of not only the existing law of the country and the Police Code of Discipline but also the Charter of the World Inspectors General of Police and those who have given orders to such Police Officers.
The Statement made by Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Leader of the Opposition,on 06th July 2012 addressing Parliament under Standing Order