07 May 2011 00:00
By Susitha R. Fernando
Former Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva yesterday warned that the proposed 19th Amendment to the Constitution was a serious interference by the President in the independence of the judiciary.
He said if the proposed Amendment was introduced it would allow the President to limit the term of office of the Chief Justice to five years and appoint the Judicial Services Commission Secretary which in effect means the President would take control of the higher and lower courts.
“It is unconstitutional. This has not happened anywhere in the world or in the 200-year judicial history of Sri Lanka,” Mr. Silva said and added that while the other Supreme Court judges could continue till the retirement age of 65, the Chief Justice would have to retire after five years even if he or she was below 65.
“This is highly illogical,” the former Chief Justice said.
He said if Justice Shirani Bandaranayake was appointed as the next CJ, she would have to retire well before she reached 65, which is 10 years hence.
“This will result in the country’s chief justice being similar to someone on a contract and this is clearly an intrusion into the independence of the judiciary,” Mr. Silva said.
He claimed that while the higher judiciary was controlled by limiting the term of office of the Chief Justice, the minor judiciary – judges of magistrate’s courts and other lower courts would come under the control of the President by way of appointing the Judicial Services Commission Secretary.
“The JSC is comprised of three Supreme Court judges and a Secretary, a judicial officer handling all the administrative functions such as transferring of judges of lower courts.
If this appointment is done by the President it would be a political appointment and he will have access to the minor judiciary as well,” the former Chief Justice said and warned that this would be akin to the President keeping the entire judiciary under his thumb.