The legal system should act in favour of the citizen
he Bar Association is the most powerful professional body in Sri Lanka established in 1974, amalgamating the traditional Law Society and the Bar Council creating Attorneys- at -Law in place of Proctors and Advocates, and Solicitors and Barristers-at Law in the UK.
Amongst ambitious objects, maintenance of the honour and independence of the Judiciary, consideration of matters relating to Rule of Law and administration of justice, promotion of honourable practice of professionals, protection of Human Rights, and Liberties, support of law reforms, legal education, and legal aid are some of the main items in the agenda for the BASL.
Whether the legal professionals are living up to these expectations is a matter the citizen has to decide based on the performances of the professionals.
Membership of the Association runs to around 16,000 with many in active practice. The Judiciary, predominately consisting of Attorneys-at-law, with the Legislature Executive and important positions in the public and private sectors consists of lawyers, who will fit into any position in a system of governance anywhere in the world.
Bar and the Judiciary
The BASL and Judiciary are integrated limbs of the Judicial System as either sides of the same coin. As members of the Judiciary consist only of Attorneys- at- law, and every member enrolled as an Attorney - at - Law of the Supreme Court should statutorily, became a member of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka. Accordingly, members of the legal profession are monopolising the representation of the citizen to the Judiciary, for redress and fair play on matters of civil and criminal issues and justice on matters against society.
Independence of the Bar and the Judiciary are matters the citizen is vague about and there are ongoing debates and misunderstandings on the interaction of the two branches of the legal administration.
"Legal system under any governance should act in favour of the citizen/living beings and it is the duty of the parties concerned to look forward for a successful and an imaginary way of life, with great care, determination and commitment to serve and to be served."
BASL is accused of being influenced by NGOs and some embassies and allegations of bribery and corruption are heard more often than before signifying the deterioration of standard.
As standards of education, ethics, behaviour, skills, and all other respects are gradually declining there is no wonder the standards of the legal profession and the judiciary too is declining proportionately.
Conflicts among Bar, Judiciary and the Citizen
Conflicts are not uncommon among these three groups interacting with each other on daily basis. It appears that the matters have aggravated in the recent past faster for unknown reasons.
Citizens have issues with the lawyers on the quality of services, exorbitant and unreasonable charges for litigation and low quality of professional services. In the United Kingdom the Law Society is strict on the Solicitors on the fees charged, quality of professional services and the solicitor is bound to give the breakdown of the fees charged and services rendered, which is not applicable in Sri Lanka.
A leading Colombo based NGO lawyer, who has charged billions of rupees for inquiring into an alleged bribery corruption charges of a leading Government institution after the regime change, has declined to give the break down despite agitation of the media and the profession.
They should be whiter than white as those preach good governance and cleanliness on professionalism should set an example.
Some cases prolong for decades and lawyers tend to live on inefficiency and ineffectiveness of the system.
"All stake holders should be able to serve and enjoy the profession, with directions from many religions on the dignity and honor of the profession the professionals and society of human beings including the animal kingdom and the environment."
Justice delayed is Justice denied and it is time for the BASL to take the lead on law reforms and delays with the Judiciary and the civil society.
Minister of Justice for whom we have highest regards and hopes in the steering wheel appear to have no control a vision, strategy or a plan of action to correct the situation. It is the duty of the BASL to assist him in his endeavourers to put things right. He appears to fight his own battle for survival. It is time we assist the Director General of the Bribery Commission, who is fighting a lone battle hard to minimize bribery and corruption.
Is Judiciary independent?
Judges are in glass houses as exhibits and citizen depends on them to seek justice and fair play for redress for the civil, criminal and issues against the society through the Police and the AG’s Department.
Standards have gone down everywhere and one cannot expect Judiciary alone to maintain it in isolation as judges are selected from and among the Attorneys-at –Law, who citizen has doubts on the competence and conduct. The worst period of the Court System in Sri Lanka commenced with the declining of standards as a result of the Judiciary being politicised and dictatorial.
Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake - a world renewed academic should not have been treated so badly and former Chief Justice - one of the finest lawyers and a celebrated Judge Mohan Peiris should not have been removed from office merely based on a letter from the President’s Secretary overriding the appointment, which was legal and Constitutional, which are black patches and bad precedents undermining the independence of the Judiciary.
Rule of Law /Law and Order and Legal Aid
The rule of law is the supremacy of the law being equal to everybody which prevails in theory. Today the rich and privileged can get away with money and power. Access to law and justice is denied to the poor and powerless with weak and ailing legal aid system poorly funded with inefficient and ineffectual staff.
Billions are spent in the UK on legal aid through the network of solicitors preventing a revolt and unrest of the citizens, who will be able to retain even a QC for litigation approved by merits and income tests.
India and the USA are far too advanced on public interest litigation and group rights being Bopal Case being the most famous in India, where hundreds of thousands were affected on chemical poisoning.
With many group rights cases in UK and USA on food and hygiene against fast food giants, they find shelter in poor Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans catalysing and increasing diabetic community, which is ever increasing including children.
Billions of Pounds and Dollars channelled to the BASL should have been diverted to Legal Aid instead of using it for regime changes and Thamashas.
The years 1985/6/7 are golden eras of BASL responsible for the active participation and engagement of Public Interest Litigation and aligned with legal aid systems worldwide.
It is time for the next BASL and Law Society to take notice of the needs of the Judiciary, Bar and the Citizen for a new journey and plan of action towards equality and law and order of the citizen, which is fast deteriorating with crimes increasing with no control.
The Way Forward
There are achievable aims with the participation of all the stallholders connected to the Legal Administration.
Legal Profession is so honourable that at the outset of the profession it has been a voluntary service to the community, which gradually transformed to a money making mechanism.
Law is not an ass as some say- it is close to a religion and a practical philosophy, which is innovative and imaginary in driving the society to peace and peaceful living respecting and looking after each other.
Thomas Hobbs, John Lock, Socrates and Plato are few pioneers of this great philosophy transformed it into the law in practice today. All stake holders should be able to serve and enjoy the profession, with directions from many religions on the dignity and honour of the profession the professionals and society of human beings including the animal kingdom and the environment.
Legal system under any governance should act in favour of the citizen/living beings and it is the duty of the parties concerned to look forward for a successful and an imaginary way of life, with great care, determination and commitment to serve and to be served.
It should be a joint effort of the Bar, the Judiciary, the Minister of Justice and the citizen.