Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court silent so far on complaint against ex-CJ

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Social Empowerment Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake has drawn the attention of the Supreme Court to his complaint against the conduct of the former chief justice as there has been no response for almost a month.

The minister addressed a reminder to Chief Justice Priyasath Dep  expressing the hope that the Chief Justice may have already initiated an inquiry although Ramanayake himself had not been informed about  it.

“Although I have not received an acknowledgement in this connection to date, I hope your honour has already initiated appropriate action on this,” Ramanayake said.

Last month, Ramanayake lodged a formal complaint with Chief Justice Dep over Silva’s alleged violation of the constitution by engaging in the legal profession, which is barred for retired superior court judges.

His complaint may have unwittingly triggered a knotty constitutional question – should English take precedence over Sinhala – in unravelling what promises to be thorny legal issue.

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.

However, the English translation of the constitution appears to be less clear.

Recent acts of parliament stipulate that Sinhala will take precedence over any other language in the event of any discrepancy in translations, but the Supreme Court has a tradition of going by the English version in their normal course of work.

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.
The CID officers had reportedly stopped professor Peiris intervening as he had no standing in the case. Although he is a professor of law, Peiris has no license to practise law.
In the case of Sarath Silva, out of respect for the previous office he held, the CID did not stop him, but reported the matter to the Mount Lavinia magistrate. Proceedings during the August 17 questioning were also tape recorded with permission from president Rajapaksa.

(COLOMBO, September 29, 2018)

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