The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has put forward to President Mahinda Rajapaksa a set of criteria and processes to be followed when appointing Judges to the Apex Courts following a string of recent appointments that have overlooked both, merit and seniority.
Highlighting the need to establish a formal process after the 17th Amendment was repealed, BASL President Upul Jayasuriya in a letter to the President stated that the matter was of grave concern to the members of the Bar.
The Bar Association recommends that the selection criteria in the appointment of individuals to the superior courts should ensure that the person so appointed has an impeccable record of integrity and be of unimpeachable character. He (or she) must be independent and be perceived to be independent. Such person should have a proven record of being a judicial officer, member of the official or unofficial Bar or as a jurist.
The recommended process for such appointments has also been listed in BASL President Jayasuriya’s letter to President Rajapaksa. Among the matters outlined are;
i) When appointing such superior court judges, the President must consult the Chief Justice, the Attorney General, the Leader of the Opposition and the President of the BASL.
ii) Appointments to the Supreme Court should ordinarily be made in line with the seniority of the incumbent Judges of the Court of Appeal commencing with the President of that Court unless there is manifestly good reason not to do so.
iii) Appointments from the official Bar must be based on a seniority basis and the unofficial Bar based on those with a practice of over 30 years.
iv) Appointments to the Court of Appeal must be from the High Court based ordinarily on seniority, from the official Bar also based on seniority in the AG’s Department and from the unofficial Bar from those with a minimum of a 25-year practice.
The letter urges the President to give due consideration to the promotion of career Judges in the furtherance of good governance, strengthening the Rule of Law and promoting the independence of the Judiciary.
The letter states that the recommendations are made following consultation with all Branch Associations of the BASL and individual members after which a sub committee of the BASL Executive Committee headed by Deputy President Prasanna Jayawardene PC., studied the recommendations with senior President’s Counsel including several past Presidents of the BASL.