Several cases related to the so-called impeachment of Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake were taken up today (11.06.2013) before Justices Saleem Marsoof (PC), Chandra Ekanayake, Sathya Hettige (PC), Eva Wanasundera (PC) and Rohini Marasinghe.
The court was reminded that earlier, the counsel for the petitioners had submitted to the court that it was improper for de facto Chief Justice Mohan Pieris to select any judges for these matters, given that he has a personal interest in the cases as a direct beneficiary of the so-called impeachment of CJ Bandaranayake and that all judges of the Supreme Court should hear the case.
Deputy Solicitor General Shavindra Fernando with Senior State Counsel Nerin Pulle appeared for the Attorney General and said that the matter of which judges should hear must be decided by the 6th respondent is one of the cases – SC (FR) 23/2013 (Mohan Pieris). However, Counsel M. A. Sumanthiran appearing for the petitioner informed the court that this was very improper for several reasons including that such steps would threaten the credibility of the justice system, where justice must always also seem to be done. He quoted from the case of Queen vs. Liyanage, where Justice T. S. Fernando had excused himself from hearing a case because a Government Minister had nominated the bench and the case was to do with the interest of the government of the time. He said the reason for refusing to hear the case (called as ‘recusal’) was that the credibility of the court should not be compromised. Therefore Sumanthiran urged that the correct thing for the judges to do is to refuse to sit on this bench if they are nominated by the 6th respondent (Pieris). He made the argument that in this situation the only correct thing would be for all judges of the Supreme Court to sit and hear the case in open court.
The court informed that some of the judges had said that they don’t want to hear these cases. However Sumanthiran said that judges have a sacred duty to discharge which they cannot refuse to perform except for reasons indicated in open court. He submitted that all judges of the highest court should sit and any reasons for refusing to hear the cases should be publicly stated with opportunity for the petitioners to make submissions on whether such reasons are sufficient, so that the judges could if appropriate, reconsider their decision. He said this is the only way to properly protect the integrity of the court. He said these submissions are not meant personally against any of the judges, but only based on an important principle.
Counsel Suren Fernando argued an application to withdraw one case since the relief his client sought had already in effect been granted. Deputy Solicitor General Shavindra Fernando objected to the case being withdrawn. President’s Counsel Nigel Hatch who appeared for a lawyer by the name of ‘Koggala Wellala Bandara’ claiming to be acting ‘in the public interest’ wanted his client to be allowed to intervene. However Counsel Viran Corea objected to this application, pointing out that the petitioner in that case had filed a petition and affidavit which is disrespectful and an effort to insult judges of the Supreme Court who made earlier rulings, which should not be allowed. He urged the court to consider that this person (specially being a lawyer) should be punished for contempt of the Supreme Court and Appeal Court and not allowed to get away freely.
The court fixed most of the cases for 16.07.2013 and one case for 25.07.2013.