It is plain from this account that Mr. Munasinghe played a dominatingpart in the proposal to acquire the Vincent Estate for the accommodationof the’ flood victims in the Chilaw District. It was he who initiated theproposal by his letter to the Minister of Lands and Land Developmentdated 28th October, 1958. He might indeed have taken this step frommore than one standpoint of his personal position—as a prominent localman, as an active politician, general secretary of the Sri Lanka FreedomParty, even perhaps as Chief Government Whip. In fact, however, it
VISCOUNT RADCLIFFE—The Attorney-General v. Michael de Livera 417
is to be noted that his letter was headed “House of Representatives ”and his signature at the foot had added to it the words tt M.P.Chilaw
Their Lordships think that the evidence as a whole admits of only oneconclusion, that Mr. Munasinghe himself and those dealing with him,including the first respondent, regarded his intervention in the VincentEstate matter as attributable to his rights and duties as a member ofthe House of Representatives and not to any other aspect of his generalpublic position ; and in their view he was rightly so regarded. As soonas his letter was received by the Minister, the latter noted on it as theopening of his instructions to the Land Commissioner—“ For early action—
M.P. Chilaw asks this land for early alienation. …”
The Minister, evidently, recognised the propriety of the local member’sintervention and, however much attention modem democratic theorymay accord to Edmund Burke’s aadress to the electors of Bristol andmay agree that an elected member once elected is elected to act andvote as one of the representatives of the Commons as a whole, it wouldbe absurd not to recognise that it also accords to him a special responsi-bility in representing the needs and concerns of his constituents toMinisters with whom he is or may be brought into contact in the relationsbetween the elected assembly and the political executive. The prevail-ing practice and understanding in Ceylon, Their Lordships think, areshown clearly enough by the two passages of evidence which record
that when the first respondent first learnt of the proposal to expropriatethe Vincent Estate, he went to see the Government Agent who referredhim to “ Mr. Munasinghe as the Member of Parliament for Chilaw andthe person who put forward the proposal to acquire the Estate ” and (2)that the Land Commissioner followed the practice of regularly consultingthe local M.P. on such questions of acquisition. To quote from theevidence of Mr. Gunawardene, Land Commissioner, “ As Land Com-missioner, as soon as I receive the Government Agent’s report statingthat the land could be acquired I write to the M. P. of the area wherethe land is situated to find out his views and that is a matter of routine.We write to the M.P. of the area because generally as the representativeof the people of the area he might be able to advise us ”.
Their Lordships cannot therefore accept the view of the Supreme Courtthat the prosecution has failed to prove that in writing P.l or P.3 Mr.Munasinghe was acting in the exercise of any function as member ofParliament. It is not altogether clear to them whether this view isfounded on an interpretation of the words “ in his capacity as such ”that limits their meaning more narrowly than Their Lordships them-selves think correct or on a reading of the facts which leaves it uncertainwhat character Mr: Munasinghe had assumed in his intervention overthe Vincent Estate. The judgments of the two learned members of. that Court very likely give somewhat different weight to the varyingelements of law and fact that are intermixed in the case. The judgment
418 VISCOUNT RADCLIFFE—The Attorney-General v. Michael dc Livera
of Sinnetamby, J., at any rate, seems to found itself on a proposition oflaw which is expressed in the following passage :—
“ In interpreting Section 14, therefore, it seems to me, one mustfirst ask oneself whether the act for the doing of which a gratificationis offered is one which the member of Parliament can only do becausehe is a member of Parliament. If so, it is something which ;he doesin his capacity as such member. If it is something which he couldhave done even though he were not a member, the mere fact1 that heis a member does not bring the act within the purview of the section.In the result, in order to decide whether a person is acting in hiscapacity as a member of Parliament, one has first to ascertain whatexclusive legal rights, powers, duties, privileges and so on attach tomembership of Parliament. If the act falls outside the exclusive rights,powers, etc., of a member of Parliament, then one cannot say thathe is acting in his capacity as such member ”.
With all respect to this clear enunciation of principle, Their Lordshipsare of opinion that it puts too limited a construction on the words of theAct and might in some cases result in defeating the intention expressedby those words. To make the result depend upon an inquiry into therange of the “ exclusive ” powers and duties of a Member of Parliamentis likely to hang it solely upon the actual written provisions of theprevailing Constitution, and to do this may require a virtual ignoringof the plain facts of a particular case. Where the facts show clearly,as they do here, that a member of Parliament has come into; or ’beenbrought into a matter of Government action that affects his constituency,that his intervention is attributable to his membership and that; it isthe recognised and prevailing practice that the Government Departmentconcerned should .consult the local M.P. and invite his views, TheirLordships think that the action that he takes in approaching theMinister or his Department is taken by him “ in his capacity as suchmember ” within the meaning of Section 14 (a) of the Bribery Act.
Their Lordships will humbly advise Her Majesty that the appealshould be allowed and that accordingly the judgment and order of theSupreme Court of Cejdon dated 4th April, 1960, should be reversed andthe convictions recorded against the respondents by the judgment andorder of the District Court dated 2nd May, 1959, should be restored.With regard to the sentences imposed by that Court as a result of theconviotions (which were also the subject of appeal to the SupremeCourt) Their Lordships think that a convenient and proper course isthat the case should be remitted to the Supreme Court’ to consider whatpunishment is required in the interests of justice, having regard to theguilt of the respondents as now established. They will humbly adviseHer Majesty accordingly.
Appeal allowed.