Sri Lankan Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake, identified with the ruling party for long, is now facing its wrath. The papers of an impeachment motion against her have been handed over to Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa by four Members of Parliament.

Local wire services reported that there were six charges of improper conduct against the Chief Justice. Chamal Rajapaksa, brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, will have to decide if the charges deserve a probe and then set a date for a debate.

The motion has to be passed by a simple majority in the 225-member unicameral Parliament, wherethe government commands a two-thirds majority. Duration of the process would depend on the route the government decides to take. An obvious route is the Parliamentary Select Committee, which will then place its findings for a debate (if the Speaker decides that there is a prima facie case).

Government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said the proposal had received the mandatory approval of more than 75 lawmakers.

The main opposition party, the United National Party, has condemned the move.

The impeachment motion is the culmination of a standoff between the judiciary and the legislature, going on for many months. A recent Supreme Court view — calling a bill transferring powers vested with the provincial governments to the Centre not in line with the constitution — was the last straw.

Like many other controversies, this has an Indian angle: the system of provincial governments with limited devolution of power, a product of the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution. The Amendment, part of the India-Sri Lanka accord of 1987, is seen by some in power as the root cause of many troubles in the country.

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