Hirunika Premachandra, daughter of slain former Parliamentarian Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra and herself a former MP, filed a Fundamental Rights (FR) petition in the Supreme Court (SC) yesterday (21), challenging the legality of the Presidential pardon granted by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to former MP Duminda Silva, who was convicted and sentenced to death over her father’s killing.
Through the petition, she has also sought a declaration from the Court that her right to equality and equal protection of the law, as enshrined under and guaranteed by Article 12(1) of the Constitution, has been violated.
The petitioner states that the decision to pardon Silva, who since his release has been appointed National Housing Development Authority Chairman, was unreasonable and undermined the authority of the Court, since his conviction had been affirmed by a five-Judge bench of the SC.
President Rajapaksa granted a Presidential pardon to Silva on 24 June, leading to an avalanche of criticism from the family of Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra, the Parliamentary Opposition, the legal community, and foreign nations.
The Colombo High Court, in a two-one split decision, gave Silva the death sentence in 2016, over the murder of Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra. Silva had filed an appeal at the SC against the decision, but the SC upheld the verdict on the murder conviction and affirmed the sentence. However, the Presidential Commission appointed to investigate incidents of political victimisation in 2020 had recommended the release of Silva. The Commission cited an audio recording between the MP convicted and imprisoned over contempt of Court, Ranjan Ramanayake, and one of the two Colombo High Court Judges who voted to convict and impose the penalty of death, saying that the said Judge had curried political favour to gain a promotion to the Court of Appeal in lieu of giving a politically biased decision in the Silva case.
While there had been speculation from last year that this Presidential pardon would be granted, the President had withheld it until he included Silva among 93 other prisoners in his Poson Poya Day list of pardons for prisoners.
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), in a letter to the President, has noted that it is the right of the public to know as to whether the said pardon has been granted in accordance with the report of the trial Judges, the advice of the Attorney General, and the recommendation of the Justice Minister, and therefore has requested the President to make the public aware as to whether such report, advice, or recommendation does exist, and if so, whether they in fact did or did not recommend such pardon to Silva. The BASL maintains that if any one or more of such aforementioned considerations were not satisfied in the instant case, the pardon granted to Silva would be unreasonable and arbitrary, and will in turn result in the erosion of the rule of law and a loss of public confidence in respect to the administration of justice.
The BASL has also sought information on the grounds for the selection of Silva for the purpose of granting a pardon, the facts and circumstances which were taken into consideration in the granting of said pardon, and the reasons as to why the case of Silva stands out from others who are currently similarly sentenced. The Morning.