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Sri Lanka Supreme Court to hear contempt case against ex-CJ

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court Wednesday decided to hear a landmark contempt case against controversial former chief justice Sarath Silva over his alleged criticism of judicial action after the October coup.

A three-judge bench headed by Vijith Malalgoda fixed the next hearing for February 7. Silva, who has previously apologised to Sri Lankans for what he called his politically-motivated judgement in favour of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa in the “Helping Hambantota case”, is now accused of criticising the highest judiciary.

The 16-page complaint filed by three academics say that Silva had publicly ridiculed both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal over their decisions in connection with the October 26 coup. The highest court had suspended President Maithripala Sirisena’s sacking of parliament and eventually ruled that the head of state had violated the constitution.

A seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court confirmed on December 13 that Sirisena had broken the law and restored parliament. Silva had lambasted the interim orders of the Supreme Court just 10 days before the final verdict was delivered.

In the meantime, the Court of Appeal had suspended former president Mahinda Rajapaksa from carrying out duties as prime minister appointed by Sirisena on October 26.

Rajapaksa has appealed to the Supreme Court against the court of appeal’s interim order restraining him from exercising the powers of Prime Minister.

Rajapaksa subsequently resigned after parliament repeatedly passed no-trust votes against him. The latest complaint against former CJ Silva includes allegations first made against him by Ranjan Ramanayake, State Minister of Highways and Road Development.

Ramanayake sent repeated complaints to the Supreme Court that Silva violated the constitution by engaging in the legal profession, which is barred for retired superior court judges.

Ramanayake pointed out that Silva breached Article 110 (3) of the constitution as spelt out in Sinhala, which clearly prohibits a retired Supreme Court judge pleading, appearing before or acting any court or institution, or practising the profession.

Retired superior court judges can engage in law practice only on the written permission of the President, and Ramanayake said he was confident that Silva had not obtained such permission when he acted as legal counsel to former president Mahinda Rajapaksa on August 17.





Former CJ Silva was by the side of the former president when the latter was questioned by the Criminal Investigation Department in connection with the 2008 abduction and torture of journalist Keith Noyahr.

Rajapaksa had also obtained legal advice from Ali Sabry, Jayantha Weerasinghe, P. Ganesh and G. L. Peiris in addition to Sarath Silva, according to court records. (COLOMBO, January 23, 2019)

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