In re Ratnayake.
Present: Poyser SJPJ., Keuneman and de Kretser JJ.
In the Matter of a Rule under Section 51 of the CourtsOrdinance.
In re RATNAYAKE.
Contempt of Court—Letter requesting postponement of a case—Attempt toinfluence a Judge—Courts Ordinance, s. 51.
Where the respondent wrote a letter to a Judge requesting the post,ponement of a case on the ground that a party, against whom a warranthad been issued for failure to appear in Court on summons, was in adelicate state of health,—
Held, that the communication amounted to an attempt to influencethe Judge upon a matter publicly before him-and that the respondentwas guilty of contempt of Court.
SOMADU moved the District Court of Kandy that she be appointed• curatrix of the property of her minor children. She was noticed
to appear on January 20, 1938; to supply the necessary stamps for thecertificate of curatorship. On that day it appears that she sent her sonwith a certificate from the Arachchi to the effect that as she was in delicatehealth she could not be present in Court on that date. The certificatewas not brought to the notice of the learned District Judge as there wasno journal entry regarding it. On that day a warrant was issued for herappearance on March 31. A brother of Somadu informed these facts tothe respondent, who wrote the following letter to the learned DistrictJudge:—
“ Sir,—I am given to understand that Rankotgedera Somadu is indelicate health, being pregnant, and is expecting a child at anymoment. The Arachchi. I understand, has sent a certificate to thateffect.
“ I shall be grateful to you if you cam grant a date to enable her toappear in Court in response to the summons.”
The learned District Judge reported the matter to the Supreme Courtand at the same time asked for an explanation from the respondent.He replied that his action was purely on humanitarian grounds and theletter was not written either a? an Advocate or as a State Councillor.
A rule was issued on the respondent to show cause why he should notbe punished for contempt of Court.
R. L. Pereira, K.C. (with him H. V. Perera, K.C., E. A. P. Wijeratneand B. H. Aluwihare), for party noticed.—The practice is that, when theparties are poor, the Arachchi’s report is accepted. The respondent actedon humanitarian grounds. No offence has been committed at all. Thelaw contemplates an endeavour by a third party to induce, the Court toact improperly so as to taint the source of justice—7 Hals. (Hailsham ed.)p. 7, s. 10. Five cases are cited, but they do not go so far as the broadproposition. (In re Ludlow Charities, Lechmere%Charlton’s case1.).
[Khetser J.—Your client placed certain material before Court, but atthe same time he asked for a favour.]
i (1837) 6 L. J. 185; 40 E. ft. 661.
100POYSER S.PJ.—In r.e Ratnayake.
That is unfortunate. The inclusion of that phrase was not to taint thesource of justice.
Martin’s case1 was one dealing with bribery. The question ofcontempt was not discussed in R. v. Falkner *.
Counsel cited In re Dyce Sombre3 and Ex parte JonesThe effect of all these cases is that, if any person endeavours im-properly to induce the Court to act in an improper manner, it would bea contempt of Court. In this case the respondent has brought certainfacts to the Court as amicus curiae. It is merely for a postponementand it has nothing to do with the judgment.
Out of gratefulness he had used a phrase which had no meaning. Thementality of the writer must be taken into account. It must take acourse which it would not naturally take.
[Poyser S.P.J.—It was a technical contempt.]
| Mr. Pereira at this stage tendered an apology on behalf of therespondent.]
A. L. Wijeyeivardene, K.C.. Acting A.G. (with him D. Jansze), wasnot called upon.
July 20, 1938. Poyser S.P.J.—
In this matter one Ratnayake Mudiyanselegedera Abeyratna Rat-nayake of-Kahalla, Katugastota, has been called upon to show cause whyhe should not be punished for the offence of contempt of Court committedby him against and in disrespect of the authority of the District Court ofKandy.
The following are the facts. Proceedings were initiated in the DistrictCourt of Kandy, on October 25, 1937, by one R. Somadu who movedthat she be appointed curatrix of the property of her minor children.Her application was allowed on November 15, 1937, and various directionswere given. On January 20, 1938, it appears that the stamps that werenecessary for the certificate of curatorship had not been supplied, andnotice was served on the applicant but she did not appear, and conse-quently warrant was issued for her appearance on March 31. On March12, the respondent writes the following letter to the District Judge,Kandy: —
| “ Sir,—I am given to understand that Rankotgedera Somadu is indelicate health, being pregnant, and is expecting a child at any moment.The Arachchi, I understand, has sent a certificate to that effect.
I shall be grateful to you if you can grant a date to enable her toappear in Court in response to the summons.
I am, Sir,
Your obedient Servant,
Sgd. A. Ratnayake”.
The District Judge reports the receipt of this letter to the SupremeCourt and also calls upon the respondent for an explanation. He askshim whether such letter was written in his capacity as an Advocate or in
• * (1747) Si Russ. <f: .1/. C74. (1849) 1 Mac. .1 G. 116; 41 E. R. 1209.
a (1835) 2 U. t R. 525.* (1806) 13 Vcssey Jr. 237.
POYSER SJJ.—In re Ratnayake.
Ms capacity as a State Councillor. In answer to that letter, the respond-ent states that he did not write that letter in either of such capacities,but that he wrote if as he .felt it his duty as an ordinary citizen to bringto the notice of the Court that the person who had been summoned andagainst whom a warrant was issued was in a delicate state of health andwas incapable, without danger to herself and to her unborn child to beable to attend the District Court, Kandy.
Various affidavits have been filed and there is no reason to doubt thatthe facts are as stated by the respondent, namely, that the woman was ina delicate state of health at the time she was called upon to appear beforethe District Court of Kandy, that she did make an attempt to bring hercondition to the notice of the Court, but that such attempt was notsuccessful; and subsequently, her brother approached the respondentand in consequence of what her brother told the respondent, the letterwhich is the subject-matter of this Rule was written-. I have no doubtthat the tendency of this letter does constitute a contempt of .Court. Nodoubt, it is only a technical- contempt, but the important fact is that therespondent not only brings to the notice of the District Judge thatSomadu is in delicate health, but goes on to ask the Judge for an, adjourn-ment in the following words: —'-
“ I shall be grateful to you if you can grant a date to enable her toappear in Court in response to the summons ”.= •. V-
Various authorities have been cited in regard to what does or does notconstitute a contempt of Court, and I think for the purposes of this case,I need only quote a passage in the judgment of Lord Chancellor Cottenhamin the case of In re Dyce Sombre
“ Every private communication to a Judge, for the purpose. ofinfluencing his decision upon a matter publicly, before him,is,
and ought to be, reprobated; it'is'a'Calculatedj if tolei?aged> 'to-
divert the course of justice, ahd is cdn|idfere^, qnd ought piore fre-quently than it is, to be treated pk, wbg|< IS .resdily- is, ;a high ‘qpht.etoptof court …, :■** x ■:“
As I said earlier, the contempt is not a serious one, but it amounts toan attempt to influence the Judge upon a matter publicly before him,and it is very necessary, in my opinion, that such a course as the respond-ent has taken should be the subject of-judicial action, and it is of greaterimportance in this particular case where the respondent is not only anAdvocate but is a Member of the State Council. Persons in the positionof the respondent must be made to realize that they cannot* interfere inthe course of justice, and that if they do so interfere, or attempt tointerfere, they will be punished.-
However, Mr. R. L. Pereira, K.C., at the close of his argument appre-ciated that the letter written in the form it was should not have beensent by his client, and he has on behalf of his client tendered an apology.In view of that fact, I think the Rule may be discharged with a warningto the respondent.
Keuneman J.—I agree.de Kretser J.—I agree.
» (1849) 1 Mae. <f G~ 116; 41 Si It 120?.. v
In re RATNAYAKE