Arrest of Britisher over Buddha tattoo: A case of supreme delays

Arguments  concluded on June 10, 2015

Highlights chronic delays prevalent in courts islandwide

Daily News to file RTI’s to find causes for delays in courts

Highlighting the issue of chronic delays and archaic procedure within the Justice system, the Fundamental Rights petition filed by Naomi Coleman, the Britisher who was arrested for adorning a Tattoo of The Buddha, was postponed close to a dozen times, after Judgment was reserved on June 10, 2015.

The case was re-fixed on July 4, 2017, for argument on October 26, 2017.

The case which drew international media attention was argued and concluded on June 10, 2015.

Written submissions were filed a month later. However, the presiding Judge who reserved Judgment in the case retired as a Judge of the Supreme Court without delivering Judgment.

It resulted in the continuous postponements of the case since. The Daily News learns that procedural issues such as this have resulted in litigants facing severe hardships throughout all Courts across the island including the Supreme Court of the country.

Following the retirement of the said Judge, the Petitioners filed a motion dated May 26, 2016 seeking direction from the Supreme Court on re-fixing the Petition for argument.

The motion was heard on July 7, 2016 before the then Chief Justice K. Sripavan who recorded that the “ Judgment in this case could not be delivered due to the retirement”. Thereafter the case was to be heard before two judges who heard the argument previously. However, the two judges have not sat on the same bench on dates the case was fixed for argument, resulting in continuous postponements. The final journal entry dated July 4 states again that the bench was not constituted and therefore be refixed for October 26, for Argument.

This is after the Registrar was consecutively directed to constitute a bench comprising Chief Justice Priyasath Depp and Justice Anil Goonaratne. The direction was given when the case was taken up prior to July 4, on on February 20, 2017. The same direction was also on November 8, 2016, September 15, 2016 and on the July 7, 2016.

The Petition was filed in May 2014, seeking a sum of compensation of 10 million Rupees citing the Police and other authorities as Respondents. Ms. Coleman was arrested on April 22, 2014 and detained at the Mirihana Detention Centre after which she was deported on April 25, 2014. The issue made international headlines. After considering the submissions made by both parties on July 3rd, 2014 the Judges of the Supreme Court granted leave to proceed for the infringement of Article 11, 12 (1) and 13 of the Constitution. The Daily News is in the process of filing requests under the Right to Information Act in order to ascertain the numbers and nature of case in which administrative and other issues have resulted in the chronic delays within the justice system of the country.

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