By Mudliyar –
In any civilised democracy, as the fourth pillar of governance, the role of all forms of media is not to be aligned with the party in power or with the opposition but to uphold and protect the sovereign rights of the people from those who exercise peoples’ legislative, executive and judicial power held absolutely in trust.
In Sri Lanka, peoples’ rights are recognised and guaranteed by the supreme law of the land, the Constitution, and Colombo Telegraph is to committed to expose any organ of the government that abuses the peoples’ power held in trust. This is in fact the social obligation of any media institution that plays the role of the ‘watchdog of the people’, a responsibility and role that has been conveniently forgotten by most of the print and electronic media in the country.
Under the current Rajapaksa administration, there is a controlled attack on the judiciary under the leadership of Chief Justice Bandaranayake about which the people are well aware. Yet, it appears that although people are concerned about these deplorable attacks, they are not entirely happy with the egocentric and self-centred way the judiciary has functioned in this country that only benefits the legal fraternity (judges and the lawyers).
Three annual vacations found no other respected democracy
The court system of Sri Lanka is overloaded with cases and there is completely unacceptable delay in dispensing justice. This situation continues unabated from the Magistrate’s Court to the Supreme Court. It is sickening to observe that some cases pending before the District Courts are over 10 years old and in some cases, during their pendency most witnesses die or have gone abroad, making the administration of justice a futile exercise. This system, which continues with no protest or objection by the people, only benefit the lawyers and relieves the judges of their responsibility to dispense justice without delay.
In Sri Lanka there are three vacations declared by the court system, found in no other civilised democracy, and is truly an addition of insult to injury in the failed administration of justice system and probably the general public is not aware of this at all. According to the judicial diary for the year 2013, the days already allocated for the so-called vacation are 13th January to 15th February 2013, 12thAugust to 26th August 2013, and 23rd December 15th January 2013. It is noted that even in England, the country that installed their justice system in this country, there is no such vacation system, which they probably practiced during the colonial period. Modern British government has completely done away with this relaxed justice system that serves not the people that it is supposed to serve, but the legal fraternity, the judges and the lawyers who operate the justice system.
Appalling administration of fundamental rights jurisdiction
In Sri Lanka there are some fundamental rights that are recognised by the Constitution (the right to life recognised by the UDHR has been left out) and under the law, the executive is required to respect and honour these rights enjoyed by the people.
In all cases where people make complaint to the Supreme Court of violations of their fundamental rights, the Supreme Court is required under the law to inquire into such complaints and pronounce its determination within two months of the filing of such complaints to the Supreme Court [Article 126 (5) of the Constitution].
It is worthwhile to examine how this actually operates under the justice system in Sri Lanka. The Supreme Court sits at 10.30 am and almost everyday finishes its business around 01.00 pm. And as a matter of routine business most of the cases comes up before it are postponed for the convenience of the judges and the lawyers.
From the viewpoint of the people, this practice adopted by the judges, who are maintained by the public funds, is completely unacceptable. Yet battered people who are taken for a ride by the system have nobody to complain to about the abuse of the system by both judges and lawyers.
The law requires [Article 126(5) of the Constitution] that the Supreme Court shall hear and determine fundamental rights applications within two moths from filing. Yet for the convenience of the judges and the lawyers, the Court has held that it is not bound by the said provision of law enacted for the effective administration of fundamental rights of the people. Clearly this flawed interpretation of the law had been done with no respect to the rights of the people, whose judicial power is exercised by the judges but for the convenience of the judges and lawyers, who undertake any number of cases that come their way. This is one of the best examples of the way the trust placed on the judges by the people have been violated by them.
Surely, the people, openly betrayed by the executive, do not condone the attack launched on the judiciary by the executive, yet the people hold the judiciary itself responsible for the grave and irresponsible lapses on its part, and for their contributory negligence and self-centred attitude for the sorry state of affairs in the judicial system that serve not the people, but is run in an appalling way serving only those who exercise the peoples’ judicial power and those who are in the legal profession, whose awful behaviour and conduct is never reported to the people by the judiciary, that is accountable to the people for due administration of justice.