Clarifying for the first time on what led the Sri Lankan Parliament to move a motion of impeachment against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayeke, a senior aide of the President said that it was her husband’s “dealings” and various other improprieties that forced the hand of the government.
A group of ‘young backbenchers’ in Parliament had brought to the notice of President Mahinda Rajapaksa a few acts of the Chief Justice “some time back.” Only when the number of acts began getting out of hand did the executive and the legislature take up the issue, he said. There were many bank accounts “many more than what is there in the charge sheet,” and she did not declare any of these, he alleged. The Chief Justice has denied these allegations.
“The impeachment is not because she is seeking to abort our work,” the senior aide said, and pointed to how the government dealt with the judgement on the Divineguma Bill as an example. The Supreme Court held that some portions of the Bill, which centralises powers within a Ministry, had to be passed by a two-thirds majority and one provision had to be approved through a referendum. Also, a crucial aspect on the Ministry holding the finances and spending it was held as unconstitutional. The SC said that all money should be handled through the Consolidated Fund.
The Sri Lankan government abided by the judgement, and made it clear that it will seek the required parliamentary approvals for the Bill. Also the finances will be routed through the Consolidated Fund. “In doing all this, the government has acted as per the provisions of the Constitution. Is it not fair to expect the judiciary to act in a similar manner?” the aide asked.
He said that it was “improper” for the Chief Justice to hear cases at a time when impeachment proceedings had been moved against her.
Sarath Silva, A former Chief Justice, who himself was a victim in an earlier impeachment proceeding, has said that there was nothing wrong in this case. “Chief Justice or no Chief Justice, one cannot have improprieties and that is fundamental. That is why I have no objection against this case,” The Sri Lankan Financial Times quoted him as saying.
Mr. Silva said that the charges against Chief Justice Bandaranayeke included financial improprieties. “The crucial matter is that there is a case of bribery against the Chief Justice’s husband. I feel the Chief Justice should have been well advised to take leave during that period and allow that case to go on. Or some such mechanism should have been resorted to in discussion with the President to avoid such a situation,” he said.