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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Sri Lanka: BASL condemns move to summon SC judges

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has, in a strongly worded statement, condemned a move by the Parliament to summon Supreme Court judges before the Committee on Ethics and Privileges over the issuance of an interim order to Secretary to the Treasury Mahinda Siriwardena and Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, preventing them from depriving Election Commission (EC) of funds allocated through the 2023 Budget.

The interim order was given by the three-member Supreme Court bench comprising judges Preethi Padman Surasena, Janak de Silva and Priyantha Fernando, allowing the consideration of a fundamental rights petition filed by Samagi Jana Balawegaya General Secretary MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara.

In the statement jointly issued by the BASL President Kaushalya Nawaratne and its Secretary Isuru Balapatabendi, the association has declared that there has been no violation of the powers and the privileges of Parliament, by this order.

Top Opposition spokesperson Prof. G. L. Peiris stressed that they strongly opposed the government move both in and outside parliament.

The following is the text of BASL statement: “The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) re- affirms its commitment to upholding the Rule of Law and safeguarding the Independence of the Judiciary, in light of the recent trend of pressure being exerted over the Judiciary that would potentially threaten and undermine these important principles.

The BASL is of the view that the Judiciary should be allowed to operate independently, free from external pressures, threats or any interference, for a vibrant democracy to exist. In an international view point the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, inter alia states:

1. The independence of the judiciary shall be guaranteed by the State and enshrined in the Constitution or the law of the country. It is the duty of all governmental and other institutions to respect and observe the independence of the judiciary.

2. The judiciary shall decide matters before them impartially, on the basis of facts and in accordance with the law, without any restrictions, improper influences, inducements, pressures, threats or interferences, direct or indirect, from any quarter or for any reason.

The BASL is aware that an order made by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka has been referred to the Parliamentary Committee on Ethics and Privileges. The BASL has considered this matter and is strongly of the view that there has been no violation of the powers and the privileges of Parliament, by this order. Further, the Supreme Court being an independent institution should not be called upon to explain judicial orders to any other person or institution. Therefore, the BASL is of the view that it is the duty of all governmental and other institutions to respect and observe the independence of the judiciary, and any interference in the judicial process, sets a dangerous precedent, which must be strongly condemned.

The Island

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