Comprising about 11,000 lawyers, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) recently held a special meeting of its Executive Committee, the Bar Council to decide what action to take regarding the mass transfer of District Judges and Magistrates.
More than 60 transfers were made earlier this month by the Judicial Services Commission headed by Chief Justice 44 , Mohan Peiris whose appointment is seen by the BASL and other independent analysts as illegal and unconstitutional on the basis of rulings given by the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.
Officials of the BASL , other independent legal analyst and civic action groups charged that some of the transfers were personal or political reasons. For instance they pointed out that the Magistrate who was hearing the Duminda Silva case relating to the killing of Bharatha Laksman Premachandra had delayed the plea for bail by Mr. Silva though he was reported to be suffering from serious brain injuries. This Magistrate was transferred. When the case relating to his bail came up last week before the Colombo High Court, Mr. Silva was released on bail from the Nawaloka hospital where he was reportedly receiving treatment. A SMS message from private radio station, said Mr. Silva had made a ‘miraculous’ recovery. God save the judiciary.
Now, the BASL probe committee comprising its president Upul Jayasuriya and several senior officials as reportedly run into serious problems in the probe on the mass transfer of judges and Magistrates. A spokesman for the BASL said most of the District Judges and Magistrates they spoke to were reluctant or refusing to comment on their transfers. Legal analysts said the reasons were obvious.
The BASL probe on the alleged politicisation of the judiciary and the breakdown of the Rule of Law came amidst appeals by the Commonwealth Association of Judges and Lawyers headed by the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales - the Rt Hon. Lord Judge. The Commonwealth Judges urged that Sri Lanka be suspended from the Commonwealth and the Colombo venue of the November summit be changed because the Rajapaksa regime was violating essential Commonwealth principles and values. The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Groups (CMAG) which met in London last Friday decided that it had no authority to suspend Sri Lanka or change the venue of the Summit. It said such a decision must be taken by the heads of government of the Commonwealth Countries and what will happen next is uncertain though External Affairs Minister G. L. Peiris after meeting Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma in London said he was confidence that Colombo would be the venue of the Summit. The main concern of the Commonwealth Judges and Lawyers is the impeachment of CJ 43 Shirani Bandaranayake which they insist is illegal and unconstitutional on the basis of rulings given by Sri Lanka’s highest courts. If the Rajapaksa regime does not take effective measures to restore the Independence of the Judiciary, restore the Rule of Law and address issues relating to human rights violations there is likely to be turmoil in the Commonwealth even if the Summit is held here.