The Parliamentary Select Committee probing the impeachment motion against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake has held that she is guilty of three charges of “misbehaviour” and claimed that was “sufficient evidence” for her dismissal.
The PSC’s 30-page report handed over to Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa yesterday was signed only by the seven members of the Government. Four opposition members staged a walkout on Friday charging that the proceedings were not fair.
Charge one against the Chief Justice related to removing another bench of the Supreme Court which was hearing the fundamental rights application cases against Ceylinco Shriram Capital Management, Golden Key Credit Card Company and Finance and Guarantee Company Limited belonging to the Ceylinco Group. She was accused of taking up these cases under a bench headed by her. The testimony of Supreme Court judge Shiranee Tillekewardena on Friday night, the report said, was helpful for the PSC to reach a correct conclusion.
PSC member and Minister Dilan Perera told a news conference in the Parliament complex yesterday that Justice Tillekewardena had denied the claim made by the Chief Justice that she (Justice Tillekewardena) had voluntarily stepped down from hearing the Trillium case.
Justice Tillekewardena told the Committee she was shocked to hear that she had been removed from the Bench that was hearing the case, Minister Perera said.
Charge 4 related to Chief Justice Bandaranayake not declaring in the annual declaration of assets and liabilities the details of more than 20 bank accounts.
Charge 5 related to Ms. Bandaranayake’s husband being indicted in a case of bribery or corruption and her being “unsuitable to continue in the office of the Chief Justice.”
The report recommended that further investigations on this matter be carried out by the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Central Bank. The report said purchase of a house from Trillium Residencies whilst the CJ was the presiding judge in cases relating to this Group and her husband being involved in multi-million rupee share purchase deals was not a co-incidence. Since there was already an inquiry against her husband in a Magistrate’s Court, the PSC said, it was not fair for Ms. Bandaranayake to hold the office of Chief Justice and such continuance constituted “misbehaviour.”
PSC Chairman Anura Priyadarshana Yapa and six other Government members also addressed the news conference in the Parliament complex yesterday.
Minister Yapa denied charges that the Chief Justice was humiliated. He said the PSC was forced to call other witnesses based on the statements made by the Chief Justice and her counsel.
He announced the recommendations of the Committee but copies of the report, which is in Sinhala, were not released. Another member, Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said the Chief Justice, if she so wished, could step down within the next month. It is only after a month that a resolution to impeach the CJ will be debated and passed in Parliament.
The Government members of the PSC said they also investigated two other charges (2 and 3) but found evidence was insufficient to prove her guilty. Charge 2 related to making payment of Rs. 19,362,500 in cash to the companies of City Housing and Real Estate Company Limited and Trillium Residencies. How this money was earned had not been disclosed prior to the purchase of the property.
Charge 3 refers to Ms. Bandaranayake not declaring in her annual declaration of assets and liabilities the details of about Rs. 34 million in foreign currency deposited at the National Development Bank.
A two-page account in English in the PSC report quoted judgments in British courts including one in which one time Chilean strongman Augusto Pinochet figured
By Anthony David and Chandani Kirinde