INTERVIEW WITH MR. WIGNESWARAN, RETIRED JUDGE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF SRI LANKA, CONCERNING THE RECENT JUDGEMENT AGAINST SWAMI PREMANANDA

Recorded on September 1st 2005 in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Question: Mr. Wigneswaran, how did you, being a Supreme Court Judge yourself and knowing all the facts of this case well, receive the news that the Supreme Court of India upheld the conviction against Swami Premananda in their judgment given on 5th April 2005?

Mr. Wigneswaran: I was most surprised because we normally expect the highest court of the land to be dispassionate, impartial and unbiased. We would expect them to examine the previous shortcomings in the case and to give a considered opinion. However, I found that this particular judgment seems to have been of the same kind as the judgment of the lower Courts, and that was a surprise to me. They have preferred to abide by the findings of the lower Courts, which is most disheartening because, for example, the sanction granted to apply physical force to obtain implicating statements from witnesses is really appalling. I just did not expect the Supreme Court to act in this fashion. It only shows that there has been a tremendous amount of bias and prejudice with regard to this case and that has got into the minds of judges too, when they are expected to be absolutely impartial. So I would say that this was actually a surprise to me and I was most saddened and anguished by the said judgment.

Question: How would you as a judge comment on the reasons given by the judges or their explanation for confirming the judgment of the lower courts?

Mr. Wigneswaran: You see this is an instance where I have always said right from the beginning that there was no case at all. This case could not have gone anywhere beyond the Police Station if the Police had been really interested in finding out actually and impartially what really had happened. They would have come to their own conclusion as to the falsity of the complaints and they would not have even filed this case. But here is a case where the Police takes over all the witnesses, keeps them under their supervision until the trial is over. These witnesses were kept incommunicado, never allowed to see their parents nor their dear ones and this is how evidence was obtained from them. The judges were interested in a conviction for reasons best know to them, rather then seeking the truth. The innocence of the accused was immaterial to them. In fact it would have been so easy for any perceptive judge to have seen through all this if he was not unduly prejudiced by the accused being a Swami. Therefore, I was really surprised that this has not been seen by the lower Court, the High Court and now the Supreme Court of India. It does not speak well of the judicial acumen of the Judges.

Well, if you ask me how would I have looked into this particular case, in fact any judge would first of all have checked up all the matters. What I find is that certain steps have been taken by the police. Very cunningly they have been taken and they have made use of the witnesses by keeping them under their custody. Even while they were at Women’s Homes they were under their direction and custody and the police made use of them for the obtaining of the type of evidence they wanted to foist on the Swami. These girls have been given training to give false evidence under duress. One cannot expect this type of case to have been not seen through by any perceptive impartial judge.

This is what is really making me very sad. I do not think if it was a case that would have come up in front of us here in this country (Sri Lanka), our judges would have acted in this manner. You can see that there had been so much prejudice caused by the papers, the media. They have gone to town with all sorts of stories. None of those stories were true. Most of them were absolute untruths and some were half-truths slanted to slander Swamiji. But they were so sensationalized that the judges had fallen a prey to all this. And this is the most disheartening thing, because judges are not expected to become partisan in these matters and to feel that this might have happened and therefore to conclude that it must have happened. That is not the way in which judgments have to be written. You start off on the wrong foot saying Swami has been a sort of a Satan, one who should have been religious had been acting as a Satan and so on. This is not the way. The Judge should have gone into the whole case very dispassionately, step by step, found out what was the truth, especially because this particular case had come from the Original Court, gone through the High Court and some of the most sought after lawyers had appeared in this case and had stated that there have been a lot of shortcomings in this particular case. Why these matters had not been looked into is beyond me. Now for example the judge at the beginning of this judgment said: “It illustrated a classical example as to how the insatiable lust for sex of Swami Premananda leads to the raping of 13 Ashram girls and the murder of one Ravi.” This means that he has already made up his mind that this is what has taken place and thereafter he goes on to only find out what is the evidence that is available in order to say that the Swami had indeed committed all these offences. This is not the way in which judges are expected to write judgments. They have got to start from the beginning, set out how the police have stated their case, the type of evidence led by them, their cross examination and then look into the type of evidence that have been led on behalf of the accused, go into all aspects and then come to a decision and a determination at the end. I am sad to say that this is not the type of judgment that was expected of the Supreme Court of India, which has been held in high esteem hitherto. Because India is a nation for whom we have a great respect because spirituality lies at the heart and core of that country, Judges to come out with such judgments is incomprehensible.

Question: In this judgment Swami was given double life sentences. It is stated by the Supreme Court that no remission nor amnesty should be considered. Would you agree?

Mr. Wigneswaran: Yes, this again shows the prejudice. The judges have been so prejudiced, that in their own mind they had thought that he is a diabolical Satan and therefore have gone out of their way to transcend the power given to them, which is that they have to give a sentence and thereafter the question of remission had to be looked into by the Executive. Now the very fact that they have gone beyond it and said that no remission should be given shows the extent of their prejudice and that is precisely what I am trying to point out: Judges are not expected to be prejudiced in their minds, biased in their minds. They have got to look at any particular case that comes up in front of them dispassionately. This is a very good example of the fact that judges either for reasons best known to them or because of their enthusiasm to punish a person whom they thought was a diabolical criminal, went to the extent of transcending their limits, which have been laid down as to how sentences should be given. I think it is not proper on their part and the Executive should not be bothered about what the Judges have said in this. Because the Executive could still go into this question and find out whether there are adequate and cogent reasons which need to be taken into consideration with regard to the remission of the sentences and so on.

May we hope that the truth about this case will exposed soon and that justice will be done to Swami Premananda and the other innocently imprisoned.