Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sri Lanka: Leopard skin case put off

Sarath Malalasekera

Colombo Fort Magistrate and Additional District Judge Gihan Pilapitiya fixed the trial for June 9, in the case against a century old company which was in possession of four leopard skins, which from the defence however claimed was part of the company property coming down generations.

Senior Defence Counsel Upali Gooneratne submitted to court that the prosecution undertook on the last date, when the original plaint was filed against its directors, to file an amended plaint against the company, consequent to his submissions made on the last hearing date.

The prosecution submitted to court that they filed an amended plaint and an amended charge sheet on March 4, when they were presented with summons received from court, but the accused had not been present, as they had not been summoned.

“Senior Counsel Gooneratne tendered to court the letter of authority issued by the Company for a named director to be represented in this case. Thhe amended charge sheet was read and, on his pleading not guilty, the trial was fixed for June 9, 2009.

The prosecution then moved for an order on the National Museum to release the four leopard skins for it to be produced at the trial and also took notice on behalf of the first and the second witnesses.

It was revealed that the officer prosecuting that day was also a witness, which prompted the Senior Defence Counsel Gooneratne to remark that this was improper, according to a number of well-established decisions of the Superior Courts.

Wildlife Department Detection Unit OIC Upali Padmasiri appeared for the prosecution. Senior Defence Counsel Upali Gooneratne with Mahesh Wakishta instructed by Deemani Baddewela appeared for the defendant company.


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