Award-winning cop found guilty of FR violation | Sunday Observer

Award-winning cop found guilty of FR violation

CI Waruni Bogahawatta
CI Waruni Bogahawatta

One of Sri Lanka’s top female cops was slapped with a heavy fineby the Supreme Court (SC) last week for violating the fundamental rights of a minor by illegally detaining and intimidating her in a bid to frame a local politician for rape.

A three-judge bench comprising Justices Buwaneka Aluwihare, Priyantha Jayawardena and Vijith K. Malalgoda unanimously ordered the State to pay Rs. 50,000 and the OIC of the Matara district, Children and Women Bureau CI Waruni Bogahawatta to pay Rs. 100,000 as compensation to the 15-year-old minor. The bench held that Bogahawatta had abused her authority and violated the girl’s fundamental rights and also intimidated her family.

Bogahawatta was accused of violating the teenager’s fundamental rights through the unlawful arrest, deprivation of liberty, unjustified detention without being produced before a Magistrate and being subject to degrading treatment.

The fundamental rights application, SC (FR) 677/2012 was filed by the mother of the minor who was from Akuressa, Matara.

As the OIC of the Matara District Children and Women’s Bureau, Bogahawatta had previously been hailed as a ‘Super Woman Cop’ who fought against the abuse of children and women. She had also won the award for best female officer in 2017 and a number of other awards including a Presidential Award in 2001.

During the proceedings, it was revealed that Bogahawatta had continuously forced the girl to make a false statement against a local politician who faced several allegations of rape.

However, the girl had insisted she had not been raped or sexually molested by the politician.

Bogahawatta had then illegally detained her at the Matara police station and subjected her to four medical examinations which proved negative. The officer had also locked up the girl in a cell with an adult offender violating rules in dealing with juveniles.

The court noted the girl had been treated as a perpetrator rather than a potential victim of a crime. “This court also takes an opportunity to note with concern the increasing number of incidents of abuse of power by law enforcement authorities.

There is no doubt that what is brought before the courts is a fragment of the totality of incidents taking place across the country,” the judges said in their 24-page decision.

The Court also directed the Inspector General of Police to lay down guidelines to be followed by law enforcement authorities if such guidelines are not in place already. “Guidelines that are thus formulated must reflect the legal safeguards in our law, international instruments and global best practices,” the judges said.

Meanwhile, the Police are now in the process of withdrawing the awards presented to Bogahawatta.

According to a senior police official, it will be done immediately while she will also face an internal investigation.

Another women’s organisation which granted her a ‘Top Career Woman’ award in 2014 is also said to be reviewing the case.