By Vibhushana Pieris –
CJ’s removal blocked at Commonwealth Judges Conference: Should one compromise the integrity for private considerations
Those in the law practice in Sri Lanka are well aware that Justice Sriskandarajah was sidelined by the Rajapaksa administration for his stand against the undermining of judiciary by the Executive. He is one of the few judges in the Court of Appeal, who had the courage to uphold the rule of law and quash the findings by the PSC that removed the CJ Shirani Bandaranayake by unlawful means. The Supreme Court did the same but Judges in both Courts failed to sustain their stand in the wake of tremendous pressure that they were brought under by the Rajapaksa regime.
The very same Judiciary that declared the whole process adopted by the Rajapaksa regime to remove CJ Bandaranayake a nullity and quashed the finding made against the Chief Justice Bandaranayake was forced to accept Mohan Pieris as the Chief Justice. These Judges did so for other quantifiable considerations such as Brand New Mercedes cars promised for all judges by Mohan Pieris.
All of them knew what they were doing was amounting to betrayal of trust placed in them by the people but they did for private considerations, which was clearly deplorable and unacceptable by any means. All judges were well aware that Mohan Pieris had no moral and legal right to accept the office of the Chief Justice because there was no vacancy existed as both the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal had declared the removal was a nullity and had declared process adopted to remove the CJ was also unlawful.
Whilst most others with some degree of conscience refused to accept the office of the CJ offered by the Rajapaksa regime, Mohan Pieris blatantly violating the law of the land accepted it. Every one who was offered the office of the CJ but declined to accept it knew that as required by the Constitution, no one could declare and affirm to defend the Constitution and the Rule of Law, as the acceptance of the office of the CJ itself was amounting to violation of the Constitution and the Rule of Law. Because there was no vacancy existed for the office of the Chief Justice with the two judgments pronounce by the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.
However the mood in the judiciary and the official and private bar did not last long. Very same lawyers who cried against the unlawful removal of the CJ conveniently compromised with their integrity and they simply set aside all the differences. They simply had the audacity to accept and address Mohan Pieris ‘Lord Chief Justice’ in the Supreme Court, providing somewhat acceptance to the forced change in the office of the CJ.
Justice Sriskandarajah was not an exception. He may have thought enough is enough because he had been victimized for so long and may have decided to compromise with his integrity.
For his stand taken to defend the Rule of Law he was well respected but in return what this judge received was a step motherly treatment from the regime that interfere with the administration of justice in this country. He should have been promoted to the Supreme Court long time ago. Well before the Justice Hettige, who was much junior in his career in the judiciary, was promoted to the Supreme Court, sideling Justice Sriskandarajah.
When Justice Imam retired some time back Justice Sriskandaraha should have been elevated to the Supreme Court but President Rajapaksa’s direct interference with the Judiciary denied him of his legitimate expectations. Instead Justice Rohini Marasinghe, who openly defended the unlawful removal of the Chief Justice, and other wrongdoings of the regime, was elevated to the Supreme Court.
It is very unfortunate that Justice Sriskandaraha who suffered sustained discrimination in the hands of the Rajapaksa regime lost his character altogether and had a U turn in the stand he maintained so long. Apparently with an assurance of a promotion to the Supreme Court, Justice Sriskandarajah, attending at the Commonwealth Judges Conference in London held on 23rd Sep 2013, opposed the issue of impeachment of the CJ Bandaranayaka being raised at the conference. The message is clear and he will duly rewarded by the Rajapaksa for the ‘service rendered to the nation’ by becoming a subservient judge at the cost of clear betrayal of the trust placed in him by the people.