Chapter Four

Magistrate’s Court

I opened the daily mail that was on my table.  The first letter was a summons instructing me to appear before the Magistrate’s court.  Instead of going to courts I thought of sending a medical certificate.  I felt bit guilty to report sick to the court for the second time.

The law and judicial establishments need to be respected in a society.  At the same time the judicial courts ought to give respect to reason and the feelings of the ordinary people.  Common Law is established on this basic principle.  When I entered the courts for the first time in my life, I had an experience the bitterness of which still lingers on.

When I commenced living at Medawachchiya, Samarasinghe brought a person into my room.

“Sir! He wants to speak to you,” he said.

“I am Mohideen,” the visitor spoke in Tamil.  Samarasinghe closed the door and went out.

“What can I do for you?” – I asked, after requesting him to sit down.

He wore a white shirt, a sarong with stripes and a white handkerchief on his head.  I understood that he was a Muslim speaking Tamil.

“I am from Pulleliya and attend to trading of cattle”

“What does that trade deal with?”

“It deals with transporting cattle toColombo”

Now I understood what he meant by ‘trading of cattle’.  He purchases cattle from rural areas and dispatch them toColomboin lorries for butchery.

“What do you want me to do?”

“The cattle need to be inspected and a certificate issued to the effect that they are in good health.  I will send the certificate to the Government Agent and then only I can get permission to transport them by lorry.”

“I can give you a certificate.  But I need to inspect the cattle first.”

“Cattle are at different locations.”

“It is alright”

In the meantime, he took green notes from his shoulder bag and approached me.

“Why?  What for?” I asked him.

“For the inspection of cattle!” he said.

“No way.  I will give you a certificate after inspecting the cattle,” I got up from my chair.

Having understood what I intended, Mohideen went out.

“Sir! Previous Doctors were issuing certificates after taking money,“ Samarasinghe told me after coming back a few minutes later.

“I am not like them.  I must inspect the cattle.”

Mohideen brought an old car fromMedawachchiyaTown.  Samarasinghe and I went to inspect the cattle with him.  Some cattle were in the villages closer to Medawachchiya.  I had no difficulty in inspecting them.  However, when we went out to see the other cattle, they had gone grazing.  When Mohideen pointed out some cattle, their owners were not available.  After a strenuous day of traveling, I was able to inspect only 8 cattle out of 12.

“Mohideen! How can I give you a certificate without ascertaining the health of the cattle?

“Sir! I have already paid for all the cattle.  I can’t feed my family if I do not get back the capital I invested.”

“No one is going to buy a sick bull.  Even if he buys a sick bull, it cannot be transported by lorry.  You better give the certificate without any fear,” Samarasinghe told me the factual situation.

I understood the truth in his argument.  Reluctantly I issued the certificate, which also covered the cattle that I did not inspect.  Later on, when asked for I had given certificates on many occasions.  On his way out Mohideen will pay Samarasinghe, after getting my certificate.  On that day, Samarasinghe will provide special food for all staff.  It was embarrassing as the food was bought from spending money given as bribes.  Nevertheless, later on I had to get accustomed to it.

There was a law prohibiting slaughter of cows.  Mohideen got caught by the Police when using my permit he transported cows along with bulls.  The case came for inquiry at the Kebbittigollawa Magistrate’s court.  I received summons asking me to give evidence about the permit.

I parked my motorcycle near Kebbittigollawa Magistrate’s court.  It was an old building, which had seen re-ochre dye several years back.  The redbrick color was seen along with yellow and white lime (chunam).  The building looked nulti-coloured.  As in a school, there was a parapet-wall in front of the building.  Both crows and doves had lavishly sprinkled their dung on the parapet-wall.  Only once a month, the court had a sitting in this building.  Was that the reason why the Government had disregarded any maintenance of it?  Or had the money allocated for the maintenance of the building gone in someone else’s pocket?  This was the first time in my life I attended a court hearing.  I assumed that I was not lucky enough to enter a clean and tidy court building.

“Veterinary Surgeon Sooriyan” – Someone called me and I went inside.

An officer of the court requested me to get in to the witness box.  After stepping into the box I looked at the face of the Magistrate.  A person about 60 years old was seated in a chair behind a long table.  His figure did not give me the impression that I used to see in the Magistrates acting in cinematographic films.

When I looked at the Magistrate, he turned his face towards the Courts Officer and signaled him to come closer.  He whispered something in the ear of the Courts Officer.  Thereafter, the Courts Officer came closer to me and told me.

“Please come to the Courts next time in full sleeves.  You can now get down from the box.  This case is adjourned.”

Surprised, I looked at my shirtsleeves.  I had folded them to make riding the motorcycle more comfortable.  I left the court building with shame and anger.  They are unable even to keep the court premises clean.  However, they have wasted time and money of the Government by postponing this case for the simple reason that I appeared in the witness box with folded shirt sleeves.  I decided not to call over there again to give evidence.

Now I was in an uncertain situation whether to send a Medical Certificate for the second time or not.


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