Lawyers Vs lawyers
Posted on December 14th, 2012

Editorial- The Island

December 14, 2012, 7:12 pm
The government’s impeachment move and Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake’s reaction to it have had the same impact on the society as the bitterly fought electoral contest between former Army Commander and the President. It has caused a deep rift.

The last few days have seen lawyers’ protests against the impeachment issue which is said to have created a rupture in the unity of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) as well. Demonstrations in some areas have ended up in ugly brawls.

What the warring lawyers ought to realise is that there is very little they could do about the impeachment process. They are not in a position to determine its fate by means of aggressive protests. On the other hand, they cannot make or shape public opinion as the ordinary people are not well-disposed towards either the judiciary or the legal fraternity. The justice dispensation system is rather inefficient, expensive, tardy and corrupt as is common knowledge. We are not short of upright judges and principled lawyers but they are the silent majority; what really matters is the system which is corrupt.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, himself a lawyer, pointed out in his budget speech in 2010 that there were 650,000 unsettled cases pending before courts. He promised action to clear the backlog but there have been no tangible results!

This sorry state of affairs cannot be entirely blamed on judges and lawyers. But, the fact remains that the blame for it needs to be apportioned to them as well. Lawyers thrive on ‘dates’ like Arabs and judges postpone cases regardless of inconvenience caused to litigants as a result. People embroiled in protracted legal wrangles are left with no alternative but to grin and bear it. They are without anyone to turn to. If they ever so much as make a whimper of protest within the earshot of a judicial officer they run the risk of being thrown behind bars for contempt. (No one is there to take up the cudgels for their right to a fair trial in such an eventuality though sovereignty is said to be in them!) A female litigant died recently inside a court while waiting for her case to be taken up, which had dragged on for 29 years! Former Minister of Justice Athauda Seneviratne commenting on laws delays once said he had won a land case after 40 long years!

Democracy cannot survive without judicial independence, which must be safeguarded at any cost, and lawyers’ right to stage peaceful protests, free from violence and intimidation, protected. But, the success of any agitation campaign hinges on its ability to muster public support which cannot be mobilised by dashing coconuts or shouting slogans. If the protesting lawyers desire to have the people on their side, they, first of all, have to take up the hardships that hapless litigants undergo and find solutions to their woes. That is the way to help arrest the erosion of public confidence in the judicial system which cannot be considered people-friendly by any stretch of the imagination.

Lawyers may stage noisy protests and set upon one another opposite court houses for or against the impeachment process but the public with other problems to contend with will not care a damn about their causes. Instead, they will enjoy the sight of perakadoru mahattayas exchanging blows and tearing black coats. In these hard times, they also deserve some form of entertainment free of charge, don’t they?

It is time the protesting lawyers stopped behaving like unruly parliamentarians who go for each other’s jugular at the drop of a hat and preserved the dignity of their profession.

One Response to “Lawyers Vs lawyers”

  1. mjaya Says:

    Like Match Fixing, the legal system has their very own “Case Fixing”

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