In these days when the focus is on major constitutional and legal issues, Lady Justice also is watching and giving her own verdict, opinion or interpretation. Tradition tells us that the statue of Lady Justice, blindfolded and carrying the scales evenly, symbolises the fair and equal administration of the law, without corruption, avarice, prejudice, or favour. Lady Justice wears a blindfold to indicate that justice is or should be meted out objectively, without fear or favour, regardless of the identity, power, or weakness of the individuals brought before the bar. Lady Justice is often depicted with a set of weighing scales typically suspended from her left hand, upon which she measures the strengths of a case’s support and opposition. She is also often seen carrying a double-edged sword in her right hand which divides with the power of Reason and Justice in either direction simultaneously.
Philosophers and independent economic analysts also tell us that the answer to the world’s gravest crisis of poverty is not more wealth but justice. Only justice could bring about a more equitable distribution of wealth and resources while the World Bank’s concepts of producing more wealth with the hope that some of it will trickle down has only created a monstrosity where the rich are becoming richer, the powerful are becoming more powerful and the poor are being plunged deeper into the trap of enslaved poverty.
Elie Wiesel, a Romanian-born American novelist, political activist and Holocaust survivor of Hungarian Jewish descent has said there may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest. Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, has said justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.
In the light of these proclamations we reflect on the landmark opinion given by the full ten-member bench of the Supreme Court. It was the first time an opinion was given unanimously by all ten judges of the Supreme Court.
Last Wednesday, November 5, President Mahinda Rajapaksa sought an opinion from the Supreme Court on two constitutional issues – whether he had the right to call an early presidential election during his second term and whether he had the right to contest for a third term.
The President wanted this opinion by Monday November 10. Last Wednesday afternoon, the Supreme Court’s registrar officially wrote to the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), the country’s premier legal body, asking it to make any written submissions before 3 p.m. on Friday November 7. BASL President Upul Jayasuriya wrote back asking for more time and saying it was unfair to expect the BASL to compile submissions on a vital national issue within one day.
The BASL said the registrar’s letter came on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday was a poya holiday, giving it time only time till 3 p.m. on Friday. There was no response to the BASL’s request, probably meaning it was rejected. On Monday evening the SC communicated its opinion to the President at Temple Trees. In an unprecedented move on Tuesday, House Leader Nimal Siripala De Silva gleefully proclaimed to Parliament that the Supreme Court had given a unanimous opinion in favour of His Excellency.
Former Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva and several others say the process was flawed. They say an issue of such vital national importance should have gone before the SC for a public hearing so that all parties could have made submissions and counter-submissions.The Constitution says the Executive exercises the executive power of the sovereign people while the Judiciary exercises the judicial power of the sovereign people. Finally it is the sovereign people who have to deliver a verdict at an election.