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Present: Mr. Justice Wood Renton.
KEEGEL v. ASSEN LEBBE.
P. G., Kandy, 5,725.
Intermeddling with suitors—Accosting witnesses—Contempt of Court—
Ordinance No. 11 of 1894, s. 5.
After a witness bad given ' evidence the appellant accosted thewitnessand asked her whyshedid notgiveherevidence in the
way he had told her, and why she had made a certain admission toCourt.The appellantfurtherpointed outto thewitness that she
had got herself into trouble and would be fined by the Magistrate.
Held,that the appellantwasguilty ofanoffence under section
5 ofOrdinance No.11 of1894, whichenactsthat “ any person
who,without lawfulexcuse,accosts orattemptsby words, signs,
.or otherwise to meddle with any suitor or other person having busi-ness in any Court, shall be guilty of an offence and be liable on convic-tion tobe punished with afinenot exceedingonehundred rupees.”
Narayanaswamy v. Deogu (9 N. L. R. 81), and Mesu v. Karunaratne(9 N. L. R. 14S) referred to.
WoodBenton J.—Section 5ofOrdinanceNo. 11of 1894 is a
part of the living law of the Colony.
PPEAL from a conviction under section 5 of Ordinance No. 11of 1894.
The facts and arguments sufficiently appear in the judgment.Balasingham, for accused, appellant.
C. M. Fernando C.C., for the Grown.
(1) (1896) 2 N. L. R. 81.
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12th June, 1906. Wood Benton J.—
In this case the Police Magistrate of Kandy has 'convicted theappellant under section 5 of Ordinance No. 11 of 1894, whichprovides for the punishment of intermeddlers with suitors in Courtsof Justice.
In so far as the facts are concerned, I accept the finding of theMagistrate; and the case therefore stands thus. After a woman,Wellatchi, had given her evidence in the Kandy Police Court shewas accosted by the two accused, if not on the verandah of the Courtitself at least in its precincts. The first accused asked her why shedid not give her evidence in the way he had told her and why shehad made a certain admission to the Court. He then proceeded topoint out that she had now got herself into trouble and would befined by the Magistrate. While he was making these observationsthe second accused was close by, expessing approval of what hiscompanion was saying. The question I have to decide is whetherpeople who act in that way have brought themselves within theterms of section 5 of Ordinance No. 11 of 1894,' which prohibitsany person from accosting or otherwise meddling with any suitoror other person having business in any Court without lawful excuse.
Mr. Balasingham has urged me to hold that the facts do not comewithin the section I have quoted on several grounds. He has calledmy attention to an observation made by Mr. Justice Wendt in thecase of Mesu v. Karmaratne (1) to the effect that „action 5 is sovaguely worded that it has practically been a dead-letter. There canbe no doubt that section 5 is most loosely expressed. Mr. JusticeLawrie in the case of Narayanaswamy v. Deogu (2) has pointed out,with great force and humour, a variety of cases in which it can findno application, and it is to this aspect of the question that Wendt J.in the qbservations I referred to alludes. But the section is afterall a part of the living law of the Colony, and I think it becomes one’sduty in every prosecution which may be instituted under it to seewhether it covers the factsi altogether irrespective of the difficultiesto which in cases not before the Court it may give rise.
Mr. Balasingham argued, in the second place, that the operation ofsection 5 is excluded here inasmuch .as apparently the interferenceon which the prosecution is based did not take place in the Courtitself or until after the witness had completed her evidence. In thedecision of Mr. Justice Lawrie to which I have already referred thatlearned Judge expressed the opinion that the section in questionapplied only to inteference exercised in the Court itself and whilethe witness was in the box. It appears to me with great deference(11 (1906) 9 N. L. R. 146.(2) (1896) 2 N. L. R. 81.
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that to interpret this section in this manner would be to makeit practically void, for we all know that it is in the verandahsand precincts of CourtB of Justice that professional touts ply theirmischievous trade. There are quite intelligible and wholesomereasons which make them chary of carrying on that kind of trafficunder the eye of the Court itself. If the Touting Ordinance isdifficult of application, the law as to contempt of Court is quite simpleand close at hand. I am unable to accept the view which Mr.Justice Lswrie suggested. I am equally unable to confine theapplication of this section to cases where either the witness has notyet given evidence or the case has been disposed of. Each casemust be decided on its own merits, and the question will usuallybe one of degree.
In regard to the punishment, I entirely concur in the view takenby the Police Magistrate. It is impossible to interpret the languageof which the first accused made use, with the approval of the secondaccused in any other sense than as a direct suggestion to the witnessthat she should have given false evidence. If the terms of the lawhad permitted me to do so, I should have been disposed to alter thesentence to one of imprisonment.
The appeal is dismissed.
KEEGEL v. ASSEN LEBBE