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Independent judiciary for a Just Society - EDITORIAL

27 November 2015 06:53 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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or centuries in the democratic world -- the time tested pillars have been the executive, the legislature, an independent judiciary and an independent media with checks and balances, transparency and public accountability. Since 1998 and especially during the previous regime, three of these pillars were virtually brought down by an all-powerful and over-loaded Executive President, resulting in the breakdown of democracy and the rule of law.
Thankfully, the shattered pillars are gradually being rebuilt by the new National Government headed by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Substantial restoration of good governance and democracy, social justice, transparency and accountability, integrity and sincere service to the people may take two to three years.
Last Tuesday, President Sirisena – speaking in the presence of the Chief Justice and other judges of the Supreme Court, the President of the Court of Appeal and other judges – said that after his election on January 8 he had not interfered with the independence of the judicial service. The President assured that as long as he was in office, he would leave no room for political or other interference.




Addressing a BMICH felicitation ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the appointment of one of the world’s most eminent jurists C.G. Weeramantry as a judge, the President said that with judges of the calibre and potential of justice Weeramantry among us, there was no need to import judges – an apparent reference to the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution in Geneva earlier this year.
Announcing another step to depoliticize the judicial service and the legal profession, President Sirisena said that in future the appointment of President’s Counsel would be based on merit and seniority and not influenced by any political or other affiliations. He requested the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), organizers of the felicitation ceremony, to appoint a committee to recommend lawyers for appointment as President’s Counsel.
Justice Weeramantry in the concluding speech said that during his time as a judge from 1965 to 1972, the judicial service and mainly the Supreme Court were widely regarded as the best and most independent in the 53 member Commonwealth which began its 24th summit in the little Mediterranean Island of Malta yesterday. The 89-year-old Justice Weeramantry said he hoped the image of the judicial service was being restored and consolidated to be a model for Asia, the Commonwealth and the world.




During this month, with National Law Week being marked from November 23-29, Justice Weeramantry has written comprehensive articles on how the teachings of the four major religions – Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam – could uplift the judicial service to the dimensions of a vocation like the priesthood. Copies of these articles were printed by the BASL and given to the President, the Chief Justice and a host of other judges who were present at Tuesday’s well-attended ceremony. We hope that the members of the judicial service and the legal profession would be inspired to take the high road as symbolized in the statue of Lady Justice. In terms of the symbolism, the judges need to balance their verdict on the basis of what is right and just instead of even looking at other factors such as social status or whether the litigant concerned is poor or rich, a street cleaner or a person holding the highest post.
In the article on how the values of the Noble Eightfold path should influence the judiciary, Justice Weeramantry referred to the hallowed principles of right vision and right thought, right mindfulness and right concentration, right speech and right livelihood. Quoting a parable from the Gospel, Justice Weeramantry pointed out that even the widespread crisis of the law’s delays went against the principles of the judicial service on the basis that justice delayed could amount to justice denied.




We hope that in the coming months and years with the national government providing full support for the rebuilding of an independent judicial service, judges and even lawyers will work on the basis of their awareness that they are part of the process through which the sovereign people exercise their fundamental right to obtain just and fair verdicts as a vital part of a Just Society.
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