Parliament will approve a fresh set of Standing Orders which, among others, will change the present criteria stipulated for the impeachment of the Chief Justice, Judges of the Supreme Court or the President of Judges of the Court of Appeal.
Currently, a Parliamentary Select Committee is appointed to inquire into allegations in the event of an impeachment motion being handed over to the Speaker after an inquiry by MPs. However, the SOs are to be amended to include a panel of inquiry comprising officials instead of MPs. However, parliamentary sources said the amendment of SOs alone would not suffice in this case but that a supplementary law should be introduced to give it legal effect.
Parliament is expected to finalize its new SOs today at a meeting of all the MPs.
According to the new SOs, 84(1) where notice of a resolution for the presentation of an address to the President for the removal of the Chief Justice, Judges of the Supreme Court, the President of the Court of Appeal and Judges of the Court of Appeal from office on grounds of misbehavior or incapacity is given to the Speaker in terms of Article 107 of the Constitution and shall be place in the order paper of the House.
According to 2(a) the Speaker in consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, shall appoint a panel of inquiry consisting of three retired Judges of the Supreme Court to investigate the alleged misbehavior or incapacity of the Judge concerned.
The Speaker shall appoint one of the members of the Panel of Inquiry as the Chair of such panel of inquiry. According to the SOs, the panel of inquiry shall require the judge concerned to submit a written statement of defense within a period of three weeks from the date of receipt of the said resolution.
A panel of inquiry shall permit the MPs who have signed such a resolution or their legal representatives to adduce evidence oral or documentary to prove the alleged allegations.
If a Judge is the subject of the investigation by a panel of inquiry, he or she shall have the right to appear before it and to be heard by such panel of inquiry in person or by representatives and to adduce oral or documentary evidence.
The panel of inquiry so appointed shall conclude the inquiry within a period of two months. However, The Speaker at the request of the panel of inquiry may extend such time for further periods not exceeding one month at a time.
After conclusion of the proceedings of inquiry, the panel of inquiry so appointed shall report its findings together with the minutes of evidence taken before the Panel to the Speaker and The Speaker shall present findings of the Panel of inquiry to the House only if the panel of inquiry has found the Judge concerned is guilty. If the panel of inquiry has found a judge not guilty, he must inform the House and terminate proceedings. If the panel of inquiry has reported that a judge is guilty, the Speaker shall present it for approval by Parliament. If such resolution is passed by a majority of MPs, the Speaker shall forward the same to the President for the removal of the Judge concerned on the ground of proved misbehavior or incapacity.
The panel of inquiry may continue its functions notwithstanding a prorogation or dissolution of Parliament.
The procedure in removing a judge is being changed under the powers vested in Parliament under Article 107 of the Constitution under which the House is given the right by law or by standing orders relating to such a matter. (Yohan Perera)