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ABC MD in hot water for misleading Court: Petition dismissed

The Supreme Court yesterday released on Rs. 250,000 cash bail Asian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Managing Director Raynor Silva for misleading the court while dismissing the rights application filed by his company.

The Court refused to grant Leave to Proceed upholding the preliminary objections of the respondents that the broadcasting licence of the petitioner company was not valid and that the company had suppressed vital information.

Deputy Solicitor General Shavindra Fernando took up the preliminary objection that broadcasting licence issued to the petitioner was void since it was issued to the petitioner prior to its incorporation. Therefore Leave to Proceed should not be granted to the petitioner’s application.

The Court ruled that the licence granted to Hiru, Sha, Gold, Sun and Sooriyan FM of the company was not valid. Nihal Jayamanna PC for the respondent Minister argued that petitioner’s channels were entertainment channels and not permitted to broadcast news.

The Chief Justice directed the petitioner to make an application for a broadcasting licence to the relevant authorities, who would consider the same subject to strict conditions i.e. the petitioner’s channels would not be permitted to broadcast news, “even in the form of songs.”

The court ordered Raynor Silva to appear before court on November 26 to explain why he had misled the court in the pleadings of his affidavit.

“Is it any wonder they lied to seven million of their listeners when they lied to the highest Court of the land,” observed Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva PC. The court noted that a pleading in the affidavit submitted by the Managing Director of the petitioner was false. The court found that the transcript of the purported news item submitted by the petitioner to the court was not accurate.

The Court further noted that one sentence stating that several people were killed by the LTTE was not in the transcript provided to the Court. Deputy Solicitor General Shavindra Fernando for the second respondent played the audio CD recording of the news broadcast of the petitioner’s radio channel at 7.56 pm which clearly stated that several villagers were murdered by LTTE.

Referring to the occasion of opening of the new court house in Jaffna the CJ noted that “the occasion was friendly, even the LTTE had some regard for law and order that they did not fire mortars although the court premises was within their range.”

“This is while certain others here in Colombo try to get political advantage at the cost of the lives of the Tamils living in harmony over sensitive issues.

Had communal violence broken out as result of propagating such false news what would have been the fate of these innocent Tamils?” he queried.

He noted that if the petitioner was really concerned about peace it would not have reported highly sensitive issues in a highly irresponsible manner. Counsel Sanjeewa Jayawardane for the petitioners submitted that allegation was that the news broadcast created panic among the people living in the area.

He submitted that most of the radio channels had given wide publicity to the incident. But the petitioner was singled out for the discriminatory treatment by withdrawing their licence.

Deputy Solicitor General Shavindra Fernando took up the preliminary objection that broadcasting licence issued to the petitioner was void since it was issued to the petitioner prior to its incorporation. Therefore Leave to Proceed should not be granted to the petitioner’s application.

Nihal Jayamanna PC for the respondent Minister argued that petitioner’s channels were entertainment channels and not permitted to broadcast news.

He submitted that the petitioner’s channels falsely propagated that several people had been killed by a group of LTTE terrorists and panic stricken villagers in the south of Sri Lanka hid themselves in jungles.

The President’s counsel further submitted that the petitioner had falsely sated that they had their fist news broadcast at 8.01 whereas they actually broke the purported news at 7.56 pm and subsequently repeated the same twice

He submitted that the petitioners would never imagine the difficulties the people had to undergo due to the irresponsible news item.

He submitted that there were hundreds of people gathered outside the hospital hearing the petitioner’s news item to witness the bodies of those villagers who had been murdered by the LTTE as reported.

President’s Counsel Nihal Jayamanne with Ananda Nanayakkara and Rasanga Harischandra instructed by Athula de Silva appeared for the Media Minister.

Deputy Solicitor General Shavindra Fernando with SSC Nerin Pulle appeared for the second respondent Ministry Secretary.

President’s Counsel Palitha Kumarasinghe with I. Idroos appeared for the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission and its Director General.

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