Sarath Ambepitiya

Sarath Ambepitiya (November 19, 1946 – November 20, 2004) was a Sri Lankan jurist. He was serving as the Judge of the Colombo High Court when he was assassinated. The assassination, orchestrated by a drug lord sentenced by the Judge, gripped the nation and forced the government to crack down on organized crime.

Sarath Ambepitiya
Judge of the High Court of Colombo
Personal details
BornNovember 19, 1946
Died20 November 2004(2004-11-20) (aged 58)
NationalitySri Lankan
Alma materRoyal College Colombo,
Sri Lanka Law College


Educated at the Royal College, Colombo, Ambepitiya entered the Sri Lanka Law College to study law and was called to the bar as an attorney at law.


After practicing law for some time, he joined the judiciary in 1977 and served as a Magistrate in many parts of the island. Later he was appointed Chief Magistrate of Colombo and then Additional District Judge of Colombo. Ambepitiya's first appointment as a High Court Judge was in Galle, after which he was appointed as a High Court Judge in Colombo. He was a noted for his fearlessness in making strong judgments and taking up cases that other judges feared to accept. Ambepitiya presided over many important criminal cases including the Central Bank bombing.


He was shot dead by assassins at his home along with his bodyguard, Police Inspector Upali Bandara, on November 20, 2004. At the time of his death he was one of the most senior Judges of the High Court and was expected to be promoted to the Court of Appeal. Only the day before, he celebrated his 58th birthday with a visit to the Kelaniya temple. The Chief Justice described Ambepitiya as "the most fearless judicial officer we had. His death is a great loss to the judiciary".[1]


Five men were indicted over the murder of Ambepitiya. This included the alleged mastermind, Mohammed Niyas Naufer alias Potta Naufer on charges of conspiracy to commit murder; and Sujith Rohana Rupasinghe, Suminda Nishantha, Udara Perera and Lasantha Kumara, who were alleged to have carried out the murder. On July 4, 2005, amid high security and following a three-month trial, a High Court Trial-at-Bar reached a unanimous verdict finding the five men guilty of murdering Ambepitiya and his bodyguard. All five were sentenced to death by hanging.[2]


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