Independence of Judiciary paramount – S.B. Dissanayake
Posted on February 23rd, 2019

Courtesy Ceylon Today

UPFA MP S.B. Dissanayake spelt out in Parliament, recently, the dangers the Judiciary faced if the independence of the Judiciary was not maintained. He also said that special attention must be paid to the dignity of the Judiciary and dignity of Judges. The Independence of the Judiciary, he said was at stake and urged the Constitutional Council to mete out justice and fairplay to Judges. We carry below excerpts of his speech:

Deputy Speaker, before I begin my speech, I would like to give an answer to a few statements made by UNP MP Mujubur Rahman.

Before the 19th Amendment and even before the 18th Amendment, the power to appoint Judges was vested with the President.

That power for Presidents was taken over by J. R. Jayawardena. Once he assumed the Presidency, he removed all Supreme Court Justices. Later, they were reappointed. That system was introduced by the UNP under J.R. It was further enforced by R. Premadasa and D. B. Wijethunga as well.


Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike followed suit. And it is good that you remember that well. Afterwards you spoke about this framework. Deputy Speaker, this framework that the UNP is talking about was formulated in 2002. However, the Constitutional Council (CC) and the independent Commissions that are functioning today are different.

Hence, what the President stated in his speech was to draw up a fresh framework after having sought the input of the Speaker and the members of the CC. I must tell you that we are in agreement with these Commissions. Also we are very much in agreement with the continuation of the CC.

We also support the independence of the Judiciary. Also we want to tell this House that that we pay special attention to the dignity of the Judiciary and the dignity of Judges.

I also saw a comment attributed to me by a JVP MP that certain Justices are known to visit the houses of the Speaker and the PM at Temple Trees during the night.

I never made such a statement. I also know that Judges do not visit the Speaker’s residence at night or at any other time of day. Also I know they have not visited the Temple Trees. But, how come such stories are spread. We are striving to ensure the dignity of Judges and the Judiciary.

Why has such an issue cropped up?


Composition

The Speaker, PM and the JVP are connected to this issue. In the recent past, the composition of the CC which was seven out of 10 and was kept by a certain quarter. These seven judges took decisions that did not benefit anyone. These decisions only benefitted the UNP. That is the issue here. This issue concerns not only promotions and appointments of Justices. In several other sectors such as the Administrative Service, Education Service, Labour Service, Planning and Policy Service, Valuation Service, Agricultural Service, whenever promotions are given seniority is considered.

However, the Speaker sending a letter to the President states that they do not consider seniority. That is the issue here. It is this problem that the President drew his attention during his two-hour long speech today. The issues raised by the President in his speech cannot be ignored as they are serious.

We, therefore, urge the CC to consider the points raised by the President and effect the necessary changes forthwith. Not only seniority even educational status is also considered when granting promotions.

This is the criteria that are taken into consideration. Hence, we would like to know as to how many of those 14 recommended by the President having fulfilled the necessary criteria had been overlooked for promotions by the CC. That is the main issue raised by the President.

MP Chaminda Wijesiri stated that there was no trend of ignoring disabled children but what the President stated was that a legitimate child that was fathered by him had been abused. He never referred to a disabled child. Hence, I believe MP Wijesiri has failed to grasp the crux of the matter raised by the President. I would like to state that initially for the framework of the CC Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe allowed the TNA to include three MPs of their choice during the time the TNA leader functioned as the Opposition Leader.

It was the JVP that raised issues whenever the appointments of the IGP were made. The AG and several other top official appointments were made. They in fact performed their contract to the satisfaction of the UNP. Therefore, the issue of the CC is serious.

Judges face problems

As the President pointed out, due to the current controversy involving the CC, the Judges are facing a lot of problems. Some Judges who are more senior than those currently serving in the SC are facing serious issues at High Courts and at the Court of Appeal.

No charges have been brought against them. It is the CC that appoints the Secretary General of Parliament. It is also the CC that appoints the Auditor General.

And the CC is also responsible for the appointments of CJ, Judges of the Appellate Court and granting promotions to Judges. And these problems have cropped up due to non availability of unbiased and impartial conduct of the CC.
This does not augur well for the independence of the Judiciary, dignity of Judges and Attorneys. I therefore urge you not to treat this issue lightly.

This issue is serious. MP Wimal Weerawansa raised an issue. How the SC reduced the power vested in the President to dissolve the House in four years.
Section 33 2 A of the Constitution, to the part prorogation and reconvening of Parliament, the Section on dissolving Parliament was added.

By showing that, the Court put off the power to dissolve the House by four- and- a- half years. The SC further stated that by a simple two-thirds majority in the House there was recourse to dissolve the House.

Though it is stated like that, it is now clear that Parliament can only be dissolved after four- and-a- half years. That is the problem. We brought the 19th Amendment and voted for it gleefully. It was with the greatest difficulty that the President was able to win over these MPs to vote for it.

Hence, I urge the CC to mete out justice and fair play to Judges. Hence, we would like to reiterate the huge responsibility that lies with the PM and the Speaker on these matters and we urge them to rectify any shortcomings on their part. If not the independence of the Judiciary could be tarnished irrevocably.

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