The High Court allowed a serving prisoner to lodge a judicial appeal to check whether the Legal Aid Commission was correct in refusing to represent him in a case before the Supreme Court.
Peni Tuilaselase, a convicted prisoner currently being held at the Maximum Penitentiary Center, had wanted to appeal to the Supreme Court, but his request to be represented by the Legal Aid Commission was denied.
Judge Deepthi Amaratunga, in his October 4 ruling, said the Legal Aid Act 1996 required the Legal Aid Commission to notify a person who had requested a review with “a brief written statement of the reason”. for which the request had been rejected.
“In my mind, the court has the discretion to allow judicial review given the interests of justice, such as in this case where the plaintiff (Mr. Tuilaselase) was denied legal representation by the legal aid and he is a serving prisoner who has not had access to legal counsel due to the inherent limitations of the situation,” Judge Amaratunga said.
“The main reason that can be inferred from the filed application is failure to comply with the rules of natural justice.”
Judge Amaratunga said that the Legal Aid Commission had given no reason to Mr. Tuilaselase in two letters sent to him.
“There was no evidence as to when and how the review decision was made and who constituted the ‘Council.’
“In my mind, there are ‘arguable cases’ for the plaintiff to seek judicial review, regardless of some technical shortcomings in the application.
“There are allegations of non-compliance with the rules of natural justice and the defendant (Legal Aid Commission) was unable to counter these allegations in the opposing affidavit.”
Judge Amaratunga authorized Mr. Tuilaselase to file an appeal against the decision of the Legal Aid Commission and to make the Legal Aid Commission a defendant to this request.