The Supreme Court today granted leave to proceed with five Fundamental Rights petitions filed challenging former Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s decision to grant a presidential pardon to ex-soldier Sunil Ratnayake, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the Mirusuvil murder case.

The Supreme Court three-judge bench, comprising Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Achala Wengappuli, and Arjuna Obeyesekere, granted leave to proceed with the petitions in terms of Article 12(1) of the Constitution (Right of Equality), and these petitions were fixed for argument on May 17 next year.

Former army staff sergeant R.M. Sunil Ratnayake, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the Mirusuvil murder case in 2000, was released after he received Presidential Clemency.

Several petitioners, including the family members of the victims, the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and its Executive Director, Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, had filed these five petitions, naming the Commissioner General of Prisons, the Minister of Justice, the Secretary to the President, and the National Authority for the Protection of Victims of Crimes and Witnesses as respondents.

The petitioners stated that the procedure prescribed in the law had not been followed and that, in any event, the decision to pardon is unreasonable and based on improper motives. The petitioners further said the decision made by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on March 26, 2020, to pardon Ratnayake is arbitrary, unreasonable, ultra vires, and has not been done in the interest of the public.

R.M. Sunil Ratnayake, a staff sergeant attached to the Sri Lanka Army, was sentenced to death by the Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar bench on June 25, 2015, after being found guilty of murdering eight civilians at Mirusuvil in Jaffna on December 19, 2000.

On November 27, 2002, the Attorney General indicted five accused on 19 charges in the murder of eight civilians in Mirusuvil, on the Jaffna peninsula, before a High Court at Trial-at-Bar in Colombo. The trial-at-bar bench found former Staff Sergeant R.M. Sunil Ratnayake guilty of multiple counts, including murder. Meanwhile, on May 20, 2017, the Supreme Court five-judge bench unanimously affirmed the conviction and the death sentence imposed on a former army staff sergeant regarding this incident.