Another day of reckoning for Bodu Bala Secretary Chief Monk | Sunday Observer

Another day of reckoning for Bodu Bala Secretary Chief Monk

Ven. Galagoda Atthe Gnanasara Thera
Ven. Galagoda Atthe Gnanasara Thera

Court of Appeal sentences controversial monk to 19 years rigorous imprisonment for contempt of court over his conduct at the Homagama Magistrate’s Court in 2016; four sentences to be served concurrently, for a total of six years

To say that no one is above the law is elementary and Galagoda Atthe Gnanasara Thera learnt this the hard way last week.

The controversial Ven. Galagoda Atthe Gnanasara Thera, General Secretary of the Bodu Bala Sena who is currently enlarged on bail on criminal intimidation allegation against the missing journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda’s spouse, received a 19-year rigorous imprisonment jail term after the Court of Appeal found him guilty in contempt of court, last week.

Gnanasara thera who is known for his vociferous approach on matters was not present in court as he was receiving treatment at the Sri Jayawardenapura Hospital.

In the 56 page judgment delivered by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Preethi Padman Surasena and Justice A. L Shiran Goonerathne every aspect of the law was carefully considered and was well founded to conclude that the accused Gnanasara thera was in contempt of court.

The original incident occurred on the January 25, 2016 at the Homagama Magistrate Court where the case of missing journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda was taken up. Soon after the case was heard and concluded for the day and the prosecuting counsel Deputy Solicitor General Dileepa Peeris was back in the well of the courtroom, Gnanasara thera walked in and stood right in front of the bench and addressed the court without any permission.

The thera addressing the court questioned the law prevalent in the country and stated that he was not bound by the law introduced by foreigners.

Subsequently when the Deputy solicitor General Dileepa Peeris was addressing court he referred to him as an ‘impotent attorney of the state’.

In doing so he makes a statement tantamount to contempt of court. Despite the Magistrate advising him to behave in a manner appropriate to court he continues.

In evidence led in the Court of Appeal, it was clearly stated that the monk was addressing the court so loud that it had made the prosecuting Attorney Dileepa Peeris and Attorney for the aggrieved party Upul Kumarapperuma who had been a few yards away from the courtroom to return. On entering the court and understanding that the accused who was not a party to this original case was addressing the court in a demeaning manner the two lawyers had informed court that he should be dealt with, for acting in contempt.

Prior to this, the Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake through the court interpreter had warned the unruly thera to take care to behave in a proper manner in court and that he was obstructing the proceedings of the court. This was stated in Magistrate Ranga Dassanayake’s evidence in court.

Manohara de Silva President’s Counsel (PC) who appeared for the accused Gnanasara thera attempted to show that the main evidence was not strong enough.

“It is the observation of this court that the learned President’s Counsel for the accused despite the said severe cross-examination had not been successful in assailing the testimony of this witness (Magistrate),” the Court of Appeal held pertaining to the Magistrate’s evidence.

Commenting on the evidence given by the Magistrate the Court of Appeal notes that “the evidence adduced on behalf of the defence has not created any doubt regarding the credibility of the witness.”

Galagoda Atthe Gnanasara thera giving evidence in court admitted that he was present in court, that he came to participate in the matter on behalf of the intelligence officers of the case, he was pleased with the manner in which the case was conducted, that he had expected that suspects would be given bail, that he got up and addressed the Magistrate in open court.

The thera told court during his testimony that he was “emotionally aroused when tears from the eyes of one of the suspects fell on his hand when the suspect bent forward to worship him on his way back to his cell after the Magistrate had refused bail,”.

He maintained the position that he perceived from the body language of the Magistrate that he had permitted the thera to address court. This was debunked by the main evidence where it was illustrated that the court which had concluded the matter in question was carrying on with its business for the day when the monk started addressing the court and that the Magistrate on several occasions warned him to behave in a manner appropriate to the court.

Submissions on behalf of the accused made by Manohara de Silva PC mainly was that the acts of the accused even if it is true, did not amount to contempt of court.

Judges of the Court of Appeal found that “considering all the evidence in its totality this court has no difficulty at all in concluding that the accused had made the utterances in court deliberately, on his own volition, without any permission either expressed or implied from the Magistrate.

The Court of Appeal found the thera guilty of the four counts. “Consideration of the evidence adduced before this court in its totality shows the presence of overwhelming evidence that the conduct of the accused before the Magistrate has been with deliberate intention on his part to intimidate the Magistrate in order to obtain a desired order.

Comments made by the BBS monk at the Homagama courtroom in January 2016, claiming that laws made by foreigners must be defied, was clearly aimed at challenging the authority of court to degrade the honour and authority of court and a refusal to accept the authority of court, the Court of Appeal Judgment found.

The Court sentenced the monk to four years rigorous imprisonment for the first two counts and six years and five years rigorous imprisonment for the third and fourth counts to be spent concurrently. Counsel for the monk, Manohara de Silva PC, addressing the court stated that he would need time to consider the appeal after carefully going through the judgment to which Justice Surasena replied that it was a very well thought judgement with no room for appeal. However, time was granted for the appeal.

The request by Defence Counsel to desist from arresting the BBS General Secretary until the appeal was considered, was rejected by the Bench.