The Indian government has informed the Madras high court that Sri Lankan minister Douglas Devananda, wanted by the Chennai police in a 1986 murder case, was not arrested during his visit to India as part of a presidential delegation in June 2010 because he enjoyed diplomatic immunity.
A counter-affidavit to this effect was filed in the court by an under secretary (Sri Lanka) in the ministry of external affairs in response to a public interest writ petition of advocate P Pugalenthi, who has sought Devananda’s arrest in connection with a pending murder case.
The counter said that though India did not have any extradition treaty with Sri Lanka, the countries had an extradition arrangement under Section 3 of the Extradition Act 1962. It wanted the PIL to be dismissed. A division bench comprising Justice C Nagappan and Justice M Sathyanarayanan has adjourned the matter by four weeks.
The case against Devananda is that he, along with a group of Sri Lankan youths staying in Choolaimedu in Chennai, had opened fire on local residents on Deepavali day in 1986, killing one man. Ten persons of Sri Lankan origin were arrested by the city police and a chargesheet too was filed in the case. After obtaining bail, however, all of them fled the country and the case is still pending in the files of IV additional sessions court here.
In 1994, the court declared Devananda a proclaimed offender and issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against him. The latest controversy erupted after Devananda visited India and met the President, Prime Minister and others as a member of Lankan President Rajapaksa’s delegation. He later approached the high court to quash the declaration, claiming he was under the belief that the criminal case against him had lapsed after the signing of the India-Sri Lanka accord in 1987.
In his petition, Pugalenthi said that while a proclaimed offender was being allowed to go scot-free and enjoy state honours, other ordinary offenders are expected to face trial.
Requesting the court to intervene in the matter, he said it should ask the Centre as to what action was taken on his representations and the Chennai police commissioner’s fax message to his counterpart in Delhi. (Times of India)