Jaffna Judge says President must ensure Judicial Independence if trials are to be free and fair

The rape and murder trial of Sivaloganathan Vidya took a new turn today when a judge hearing the case at the Jaffna High Court came under gun fire by an unidentified man this evening. Soon after the shooting, the judge, Manakkawasagar Illancheliyan who was unharmed called on President Maithripala Sirisena, Defence Minister and Justice Minister to ensure that the independence of the country’s judiciary is safeguarded, if trials are to be free and fair, Reported the Colombo Telegraph.

Speaking to the media soon after the incident, Illancheliyan, who is a member of the trial-at-bar that is hearing the rape and murder case of Vidya said, “I request the President, Defence Minister, Justice Minister, the Chief Justice and the Secretary of the Judiciary Service Commission to take this incident very seriously and take steps to safeguard the independence of the judiciary and protect the judges which will ensure a free and fair trial”.

Illancheliyan explained that it was obvious that he was the target in the shooting, although he was unhurt, when the unidentified gunman opened fire towards him and his police bodyguards. One police officer sustained injuries and was admitted to hospital. The incident occurred today evening around 5.30 pm near the Nallur Kovil in Jaffna, which was a regular route taken by the judge.

Illancheliyan also said that, “this is a real threat to the judges and the judiciary. I am handling one of the most dangerous cases in Jaffna and this matter should be taken in utmost seriousness by the Government of Sri Lanka.”

Incidentally the shooting also comes just days after the Criminal Investigations Department arrested Senior DIG Lalith Jayasinghe for allegedly helping a key suspect, Mahalingam Sivakumaran alias Sashikumar escape. He was however later arrested in Colombo.

Sivaloganathan Vidya was 18 years old at the time she was abducted, raped and murdered by a gang in May 2015. The rape and murder trial of Vidya began on June 28, 2017 before a three member bench at the Jaffna High Court. The three member bench comprised of Balendran Shashimahendran, Annalingam Premshankar and Manakkawasagar Illancheliyan. A total of nine suspects who were arrested in connection to the case have been served indictments on 41 criminal charges including abduction, gang rape and murder, Colombo Telegraph further added.

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