Consumer Affairs Authority Chairman Sarath Wijesinghe was yesterday found guilty of contempt of the Supreme Court with the Chief Justice saying it would come as an eye-opener to high officers who disregard court proceedings.
High drama prevailed in the court when Mr. Wijesinghe collapsed and fainted while Chief Justice Sarath N.Silva was delivering the order.The Bench comprising Chief Justice Sarath N.Silva, Justices Shiranee Tilakawardena and Saleem Marsoof found Mr. Wijesinghe who is also an Attorney, guilty of contempt for disregarding court proceedings regarding two fundamental rights violation petitions filed by Laugfs Gas Ltd and Dialog TV.
Mr. Wijesinghe who appeared in court on notice tendered an unqualified apology to all parties in open court and the court granted him two weeks time to tender his resignation from his post. The Court also directed the registrar to send copies of the proceedings to the relevant Minister and the President. The case will be taken up on September 24 for sentence.
Mr Wijesinghe told court he had sent the letter in question because he had been under pressure and that he would withdraw the cases filed in the magistrates court against the aggrieved parties and asked for clemency.
Questioning as to who had really applied pressure, the Chief Justice said he believed Mr. Wijesinghe was neither fit nor capable of performing duties as CAA Chairman or holding any public office.
Court has already terminated the fundamental rights violation petition filed by Laugfs gas in pursuant to a settlement on long term pricing formula for LPG.
The Court said Mr. Wijesinghe had misinterpreted the formula in the memorandum sent to the Cabinet seeking its approval.
With regard to the Dialog TV lawsuit, the court said it was not under the purview of the Consumer Affairs Authority but under the TRC and SLRC. Despite the court granting interim relief to Dialog and the case was pending, he had filed action in the magistrates court in derogation of the proceedings of the Supreme Court.
Earlier a pricing formula comprising 15 items formulated by the Consumer Affairs Authority had been submitted to the court and Laugfs Gas had sought amendments to three items in the formula and it had been agreed and told court that it would be referred to the Consumer Affairs Authority for approval.
Laugfs Gas (Pvt) Ltd cited Consumer Affairs Authority, its acting Director D.K.J.Amarasinghe and the Attorney General as respondents.
The Company had pleaded that due to steep increases in world market prices of LPG and the adverse impact on the costs of imports caused due to the increases in the rate of exchange due to the depreciation of the rupee as against the US dollar it was seeking a price increase in the retail price of a 12.5 kg domestic LGP cylinder by Rs 157.94.
President`s Counsel Romesh de Silva with Suren de Silva, Sugath Caldera and Iraj de Silva instructed by D.L & F de Saram Associates appeared for the petitioner. Sanjeeva Jayawardena with Rajiva Amarasuriya appeared for Dialog TV. State Counsel Rajiv Gunatilake appeared for the CAA. Senior State Counsel Sumathi Dharmawardena appeared for the Attorney General.