The Court of Appeal today directed the Colombo Magistrate’ Court to acquit all accused including former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa from the Avant-Garde case filed by the Bribery Commission.
The decision was announced by the judge bench comprising Justices Achala Wengappuli and Arjuna Obeysekara, after considering the appeal filed on behalf of the petitioner, Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Earlier today the Court of Appeal had also allowed the revision application filed by former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Avant-Garde floating armoury case, setting aside the order of the Colombo Magistrate’s Court.
The order was delivered by Appeals Court Judges Achala Wengappuli and Arjuna Obeysekara today (12).
The Bribery Commission had filed the case against Rajapaksa alleging that he had incurred a loss of Rs 11.4 billion to the government by approving the maintenance of the floating armoury owned by Avant-Garde Maritime Services (Pvt) Limited.
The Colombo Magistrate’s Court had rejected the preliminary objections raised by the former Defence Secretary challenging the allegations levelled against him by the Bribery Commission.
He then lodged a revision application stating that the rejection of his preliminary objections is unlawful, which was allowed by the Appeals Court to proceed today.
The court stated that it is of the that prosecution “by” the commission, as per Section 78(1) of the Bribery Act, has now become an obsolete or redundant function with no corresponding power being conferred upon the commission in this regard under the provision of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption Act No. 19of 1994.
The prosecution “by” the commission is therefore clearly legislative residue from Section 78(1) from the statutory provisions that existed before the amendments brought in by Act Nos. 19 and 20of 1994, with no corresponding power conferred on the Commission to institute proceedings, it said.
In the circumstances, the orders of the Magistrate’s Court and the Provincial High Court are tainted with illegality and thereby subjected to be interfered with by the Court of Appeal in exercising its powers of revision, according to the Appeal Court decision.
Therefore the Court of Appeal set aside both the impugned orders and quashed the pending criminal proceedings before the Magistrate’s Court for want of jurisdiction.
The Appeals Court directed the Colombo Magistrate’s Court to discharge the petitioner and 2nd to 8th accused-respondents from the proceedings of the case forthwith.