Court of Appeal of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka: The Division Bench of Menaka Wijesundera and Neil Iddawala, JJ. looked into the appeal which was filed against an order of the High Court of Colombo overruling a preliminary objection raised by the respondent in the matter of Section 9 of the Extradition Law No. 8 of 1977 as amended by No. 48 of 1999.

The Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Australia made an extradition request for the appellant to the respondent on 01.08.2016 where the Australian authorities have informed the respondent that the appellant has been criminally charged for committing an offence(s) during the time the appellant was employed in the Postal Department of Victoria, Australia. It had been revealed that the appellant had allegedly committed criminal misappropriation of $ 757,309.25 Australian Dollars thereby dishonestly causing a loss to the Australian Post. She had been charged with a total of 228 charges for inter alia defrauding a public authority. While the case was pending before the County Court of Victoria, Australia, the appellant has returned to Sri Lanka. The Australian Authorities have made a request under the Act to extradite the appellant from her current residency in Sri Lanka to Australia to face the charges leveled against her.

The High Court issued a warrant, and the appellant was arrested and produced before court and subsequently enlarged on bail on 30-03-2017.

At the stage of inquiry, the preliminary objections were raised by the appellant on which impugned order was passed by the High Court against which it was alleged that it was confined to an inquiry of whether the alleged offence committed by the appellant in Australia was an ‘extraditable offence’ as per the meaning of the Act, and whether there’s sufficient evidence that satisfies the issuance of a warrant, if such offence was committed in Sri Lanka. In its essence, the order has examined whether the appellant can be committed under section 10(4) of the Act which states that “where an authority to proceed has been issued…after hearing evidence, Court shall, unless committal is prohibited by any other provisions of this law, commit him to custody to await his extradition thereunder, but if the court is not satisfied, or if the committal of the person is prohibited, the court shall discharge him from custody” Thus the current appeal was filed.

The Court examined the legislative history of the law on extradition in Sri Lanka through various case laws as in Attorney General v. Ruberoe, (1988) 1 SLR 323, James Benwell v. Attorney General, (1986) 1 SLR 30, Benwell v. Attorney General, 1988 1 SLR 1.

The present application had been filed by the appellant prior to an order been issued by the High Court of Colombo, the Court of Committal in the instant matter.

The Court stated that it was important to note and highlight the importance in expediting the inquiry against the appellant and the issue of whether the appellant should be extradited or not was yet to be concluded and keeping this mind Court held that any undue delay in such a matter cannot be condoned in any sense.

The Court dismissed the appeal and directed the High Court to give priority to the matter and conclude it expeditiously.[Pragasini Manju Tharmasuthan v. Attorney General, 2022 SCC OnLine SL CA 3, decided on 25-01-2021]

Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Shanaka Ranasinghe PC with Niroshan Mihindu Kulasuriya and Ms. Tharakee Manchanayak for petitioner

Sudharshana De Silva DSG for AG

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