23 March, 2023


FR Cases Against Presidential Commissions – Is “Bench-Fixing” Back?

The latest buzz in Hulftsdorp is about a bizarre incident that occurred in the Supreme Court on 18 March in the course of the hearing into fundamental rights applications filed by Admiral Travis Sinniah, former Commander of the Navy, Ravi Senevirathna, Senior DIG, SSP Shani Abeysekera, Retired Vice-Admiral Susith Weerasekera and several others who challenged the recommendations of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on political victimization chaired by former Supreme Court Judge Upali Abeyratne, better known as the “Pissu Poosa” Commission as it was referred to in Parliament. The petitioners also prayed for interim orders against the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry chaired by Justice Priyantha Jayawardena, which was been appointed following recommendations by the Pissu Poosa Commission. The cases were heard by Justice Malalgoda, Justice Obeysekera and Justice Wengappuli.

Jayantha Jayasuriya CJ

Several senior counsel supported the fundamental rights applications and moved for leave to proceed and interim relief. Legal sources said that counsel made out a very strong case not only for leave but also for interim relief. The justices put many questions to the Deputy Solicitor General who appeared for the Attorney General and other respondents who was completely at sea having to defend a very bad case.

When the justices were about to make an order, it was discovered that there was a minute in the case file that the case should come before Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, Justice Obeysekera and Justice Nawaz. The minute was presumably by the Chief Justice or the Registrar. In view of the minute, the justices refrained from making any order and directed the Registrar to list the case according to the minute, to the utter frustration of counsel.

Legal sources told Colombo Telegraph that it is the usual practice for a bench to direct in open court that a particular case should come up before a particular bench of judges for whatever reasons which are made known to all parties in a transparent manner. For instance, if a case cannot be concluded for want of time, a direction would be made that the case should be resumed before the same judges. Also, if a case that had been heard partly before a particular bench of judges is listed before another bench by inadvertence, an order would be made for the case to come up before the original bench. However, it has never been the case that a direction would be made in the chamber of a judge or the Chief Justice in advance that a case should necessarily come up before a particular bench of judges. The only exception is when a special divisional bench is constituted or when a Bill is challenged, when the Chief Justice would nominate the judges.

This “bench fixing”, sources said, is reminiscent of the days of discredited Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva. Silva made sure that all important and politically sensitive cases would come up before him. During his period, Justice Mark Fernando was excluded from all sensitive cases and from examining Bills leading to a frustrated Justice Fernando retiring prematurely. He did not even send his resignation through the Chief Justice but preferred to send it directly to the President.

Legal sources are surprised that this would happen under Chief Justice Jayasuriya who is generally known to be above board. There is speculation whether Justice Priyantha Jayawardena had a hand in this. Jayawardena is hell-bent on pleasing the Rajapakses by recommending that Opposition politicians and others disliked by the regime be stripped of their civic rights. He was Basil Rajapkasa’s personal lawyer and his closeness to Basil is well-known. Jayawardena has already begun behaving arrogantly like the “Chief Justice in waiting” (“venda CJ”) and is said to be bullying junior judges and hardly talking to fellow judges when on the same bench.

Justice A.H.M.D. Nawaz before whom the cases would now come up is also known for his closeness to the Rajapaksas. He was an acolyte of Mohan Pieris when he was Attorney General and Nawaz was in the Attorney General’s Department. It is no secret that Pieris was instrumental in getting Nawaz appointed to the Court of Appeal. (By Upali Wellangoda)

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Latest comments

  • 3

    Is “Bench-Fixing” Back? :(

    You seem to have some confidence in the Sri Lankan judiciary.

    “The Attorney General’s Department on Friday (25), informed the Gampaha High Court that there will be no further hearing of evidence in connection with the case filed against Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa and Thirukumar Nadesan, who were accused of misappropriating public funds by purchasing a land from Dompe, Malwana, Mapitigama and constructing a house thereby.

    The AG’s stance was conveyed to Court by Deputy Solicitor General Shanil Kularatne. He informed the Court that no further hearing will take place on the basis that the first witness summoned by the prosecution, had not lodged a complaint with the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) and the signature contained in the statement alleged to have been made by the witness was problematic.”

  • 6

    Have you hear of the term LAWFARE? Brazil’s President Lula was subject to this BY the CIA and there is a great book on this. All cases like the Yugadhanavi case are now gamed through USAID to the Legal Sector which has been take over like all Health Sector institutions in a Full Spectrum Dominance (FSD), Over the Horizon (OTH) operation in the hybrid cyber and maritime trade war to crash the ECONOMY of Sri Lanka and ensure US take over and COLONIZATION of this strategic Island which is being primed like Ukraine as a PROXY WAR site using India to wage are on China just as Ukraine’s puppet Zellinsky was used, so too the 2 US citizen Rajaoakse brothers are doing the dirty work of the crashing empire..
    BASL should First protest claims by IMF economic hit men that foreign legal firms doing GoSL negotiations with IMF! Sri Lankan lawyers and legal firms should represent Sri Lankan people not IMF Economic Hitmen and their law firms!
    US always destbilized countries and starts wars in other Continents and the EU fell for this game. Hope India and China know better than to face off in Sri Lanka egged on by Washington and its Consensus!

  • 6

    Law fare like war fare whereby the legal system is used against JUSTICE for the people, and to serve the interest of external actors fixed the outcome of the Central Bank Bondscam cases and the Kerawelapitiya cases which were killed.. Arjuna Mahendran war IMF Head Christine Legards best buddy when the Central Bank bondscam happened with Ranil W and UNP cheering on.. Now RW is cheering for the IMF take over of Lanka’s Economy and Energy sector, but Sri Lanka should buy oil, gas and jet fuel from RUSSIA and ask IMF and US to take its sanctions to Hell!.
    BASL should protest claims by IMF economic hit men that foreign legal firms would do GoSL negotiations with IMF! Sri Lankan lawyers and legal firms should represent Sri Lankan people not IMF Economic Hitmen and their law firms!
    US always destbilized countries and starts wars in other Continents and the EU fell for this game. Hope India and China know better than to face off in Sri Lanka egged on by Washington and its Consensus!

  • 3

    Look like PM fixing is back. Lets wait for the Silly Lanka News.

  • 2

    This is nothing new. Same old story for past 50+ years!!!

  • 6

    After the Ranjan Ramanayake case I have lost all respect for our so called judiciary. They punished a man for saying they are corrupt ! In any civilized country a warning or a telling off would have been the punishment.

    Our judges are just another aspect of a morally bankrupt society, an unsophisticated bunch of social climbers of rural background, pretending to be judges of the British mould .

    Sarath Silva, Mohan Peries,Asoka Silva, Priyantha Jayawardena , are/were judges of this country. Need we have further evidence of a sick institution ?

    The whole thing is a joke.

    Meanwhile , as usual the propaganda machine is working ” that judge is intelligent, this judge is independent , this judge is learned…” Where is the proof ? All nonsense.

    Internationally, they do not think Sri Lanka has an unbiased or honest judiciary.

  • 7

    Although I don’t agree with the way in which the former CJ Shirani Bandaranayake was removed, she is also of the same type, unfit for judicial position. She jumped into the Supreme Court as a political appointee, being a favourite of then Justice minister the namby pamby GL Peries.

    She played games with the Rajapakses and had her flop of a husband appointed as chairman of NSB, a State Bank. Then on she was compromised when dealing with the Rajapakses. However, when they started treating her like a servant, she rebelled ( taking cover under the protection of a judicial position) and was kicked out by the Rajapakses.

    Recently , she eulogized that big fraud Chandrika Bandaranayake making her sound like a paragon of virtue and an intellectual giant. Chandrika is a comedy, with no intellectual integrity, slandering people without providing any evidence whatever.

    We expect higher intellectual assessment and objectivity from a retired judge. Shirani’s speech on Chandrika was like a priest who had been given a big donation by a patron. It lacked any objectivity or critical assessment

  • 1

    I would kindly request those interested in FR petitions, to read the article under the caption ‘Twice Bitten But Not Shy’ which appeared in the Colombo Telegraph of 25/2/22.

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