Feature Article

Judicial Corruption

[TamilNet, Sunday, 03 June 2007, 14:42 GMT]
Transparency International (TI), a global civil society organisation that addresses corruption, Head Quartered in Germany, said in its 2007 report on Sri Lanka's judicial system, that "corruption is an outcome of Sri Lanka's cowed judiciary," and that situation has worsened after the appointment of Sarath N Silva as the Chief Justice "over protests from national and international judiciary bodies, and attempts by two successive parliaments to impeach him for abuse of power and corruption."

Sarath N Silva
Although Sri Lanka has "reasonable legal provisions to guard against executive and legislative intrusions on the independence of the judiciary," the report said, "experience shows that constitutional provisions alone cannot protect judicial independence without critical oversight by the media, professionals and academics, as well as public recognition of the need to protect the integrity of the institution."

PDF IconSri Lanka: Judicial Corruption Country Report (568Kb)
PDF IconExecutive Summary(36Kb)
"According to the 1999 amendment, presidential nominations to the court of appeal and the Supreme Court need to be ratified by the constitutional council, a body comprised of six members appointed by parliament and four ex officio members. Since November 2005 the council has been defunct due to the refusal by Kumaratunga’s successor, President Mahinda Rajapakse, to activate the body on the grounds that smaller political parties had not yet nominated the last remaining member.

"In June 2006, the president appointed a new judge to the Supreme Court and two others to the court ofappeal on the recommendation of the Chief Justice, by-passing the council altogether," the report said, echoing several international human rights watchdogs on the worsening executive interference with the judicial system.

In Sri Lanka, "judges perceived as problematic by the powerful can be reassigned from sensitive positions or have control of sensitive cases transferred to more pliable judges," the report said.

"At the time of the People’s Alliance government Sarath De Silva replaced the two most senior judges in the Judical Services Commission (JSC) with two of the least experienced judges from the Court, the report said. "Judges who do not toe the political line are warned and, if incorrigible, are dismissed on one pretext or another. Conversely, judges who are politically in line with the administration are shielded from disciplinary action despite evidence of corrupt practices, including bribe taking and the procurement of sexual favours from litigants and junior court staff," the report said.

"From 1999 to 2003 the senior Supreme Court judge, Justice Fernando, was excluded from almost all important constitutional cases. This led to his retirement in early 2004, two and half years before the end of his tenure," the report said on the perversion of justice at Sri Lanka's highest court.

The report's recommendations included an independent panel to inquire into allegations against the Chief Justice, and steps to protect lower judiciary from arbitrary and mala fide decisions of the JSC.

Earlier, in Boston Review article, Alan Keenan, a Mellon Post-doctoral Fellow in Peace and Conflict Studies and a visiting assistant professor of political science at Bryn Mawr College, said of Sri Lanka Judiciary: "Bindunuwewa and the continuing legal and bureaucratic saga present powerful evidence of institutional discrimination against Tamils that persists even—perhaps especially—at the highest levels of the judiciary and the police. It offers all too compelling support for the LTTE line that the government will never offer a fair settlement of Tamil grievances. And it explains why LTTE’s arguments continue to have resonance with so many Sri Lankan Tamils, both inside and outside the country."

Related Articles:
22.03.07   Reckless Justice
05.01.06   Rights Group faults AG for Chemmani prosecution delays
25.10.05   ACHR exposes Bindunuweva massacre report
03.07.05   Supreme Difference
02.06.05   Rights Group condemns Bindunuwewa acquittals

External Links:
AHRC: Bypassing the 17th Amendment is a move towards the return to absolute power
BostonReview: No Peace, No War by Alan Keenan
AHRC: Two senior judges quit the Judicial Service Commission as a matter of conscience
AHRC: President Violates 17th Amendment to the Constitution
TI: Global corruption report
AHRC: 17th Amendment crisis


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