The Attorney-General of India has given sanction to prosecute Adish Aggrawala, the controversial President of the International “Council” of Jurists, for contempt of the Supreme Court of India. Aggrawla recently issued a statement white-washing the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government regarding the impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake.
Sri Lankan State media gave wide publicity to Aggrawala’s statement and many thought, at least initially, that the internationally respected International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) had given its stamp of approval to the impeachment process, only to realize soon that Aggrawala’s International “Council” of Jurists was not the well-known ICJ. Aggrawala implied that the statement had the backing of several well-known jurists across the globe, including the Chief Justice of Pakistan, who were described as office-bearers of the “ICJ”. The Supreme Court of Pakistan then issued a statement denying that the Chief Justice had anything to do with Aggrawala’s statement. Several other jurists also dissociated themselves.
The sanction of the Attorney General of India to prosecute Aggrawala followed a statement by Aggrawala alleging inappropriate conduct on the part of the Chief Justice of India. Three Senior Advocates, P.P. Rao, K.K. Venugopal and Ranjit Kumar, had been appointed by Supreme Court of India to vet the list of 8000 members of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA). The genuine regular practising members at the Indian Supreme Court has been about 1500 only, but the membership had been bloated to 8000 by aspirants for the post of President and the Secretary General of SCBA. These aspirants had paid the enrolment fees for thousands of lawyers from various District Courts in India. The three-member team appointed by the Supreme Court reduced the figure from 8000 to 1500, which apparently upset Adish Aggrawala, who was an aspirant for the post of President of the SCBA. He later withdrew from the contest. Adish Aggrawala then alleged inappropriate conduct on the part of the Chief Justice of India, as well as the three Senior Advocates who sought and obtained the sanction of the Attorney-General to prosecute Aggrawala.
Meanwhile, Malathi Das, Secretary-General of LAWASIA, the Law Association for Asia and the Pacific, comprising the peak bodies representing lawyers in some 30 nations of the ESCAP region, including the Bar Association of Sri Lanka has written to President Mahinda Rajapaksa to express grave concern over recent reports from Sri Lanka which indicate circumstances where lawyers have been threatened and intimidated as a result of carrying out their professional duties.
Ms Das stated that LAWASIA has become aware of allegations that some lawyers acting in matters that relate to the impeachment of the Hon. Shirani Bandaranayke or who have made public comments in their concern for independence of the judiciary have been threatened,harassed and intimidated. LAWASIA called on the government of Sri Lanka to meet its obligations to protect lawyers as outlined in provisions in the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers as adopted by the 8th United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, Cuba, in 1990. These principles represent an internationally-agreed standard and LAWASIA urges your government to take immediate and effective action to discharge its duty in this respect towards members of Sri Lanka’s legal community.
“We encourage the Sri Lankan government to take steps to ensure that those responsible for such threats are identified and held accountable. It is hoped that a robust approach from your government in this matter will indicate to the citizens of Sri Lanka and to the international community that such lawlessness and intimidation cannot be tolerated”, Ms Das added.