BASL warns Prisons Department

The President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) President’s Counsel Kalinga Indatissa has warned the Commissioner -General of Prisons that legal action will be taken for infringement of the professional rights of the members of the legal profession.

In a letter addressed to the Commissioner-General, PC Indatissa said it has been brought to the notice of the BASL by several members of the legal profession, of a serious violation of the professional rights of its members which is currently taking place at several prisons throughout Sri Lanka. 

“Several of our members have complained to us that Attorneys-at-Law visiting the Boosa detention camp are being subjected to unnecessary security checkups by the members of the STF. While appreciating the need to maintain security at every detention center, we have to mention that members of the legal profession are officers of Court, assisting the judicial system in the administration of justice”, he said. 

It is also reported that the lawyers are not permitted to have consultations with their clients in privacy and that the authorities insist that the consultations are held in the presence of STF/Prison personnel. This requirement is a serious infringement of the professional obligations of members of the Bar. It results in the breach of Lawyer-Client confidentiality and leaves an extremely unsavoury taste. 

The right to obtain legal assistance and representation is a Constitutional guarantee protected through our Constitution. Section 41 of the Judicature Act of 1978 further emphasizes the right of every person to obtain proper legal representation. Such representation will be denied to those seeking legal assistance in the circumstances set out above. 

PC Kalinga Indatissa stating that this unsavoury practice is now developing at other prisons and detention centers too, called on the Commissioner-General to make immediate arrangements to rectify this situation. 

He further highlighted the following recommendations;

  1. Lawyers visiting the prisons must be provided every possible assistance to discharge their duties and professional obligations. 
  1. They ought not to be subjected to security checks more than necessary. You may note that there has not been any reported incident where it has been alleged that lawyers entering Prisons have been the cause of security breaches. Hence it is important to treat the members of the profession with dignity and respect. 
  1. The members of the legal profession should be permitted to have consultations and obtain instructions from clients inside the prisons in confidence and in circumstances where confidentiality is maintained.
  1. There should not be any STF or Prison Personnel present at such consultations or in the vicinity of such consultations within a distance where such officers may hear the instructions given and taken.  

PC Kalinga Indatissa further strongly objected to the actions of the prison officials and called for the nomination of a committee to address the issue. 

The BASL will too nominate a team of representatives once it receives a response from the Commissioner General of Prisons, he said.

The President of the Sri Lanka Bar Association added that if immediate steps are not taken to rectify this situation, they will be compelled to explore legal action for infringement of the professional rights of the members of the legal profession. (Colombo Gazette)