With crisis within crisis, conflicts within conflicts and contradictions within contradictions in the constitutional muddle over the move to impeach Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake, most people and independent analysts hope that some compromise will be reached with the more powerful Executive and the Legislature showing some magnanimity and humility. These are magnificent virtues in conflict resolution and should not be considered as acts of weakness.
If we look at the crisis positively and things work out well for the common good of all, then we would like to see major structural reforms and attitudinal changes in the process and the dispensation of justice.
The constitution emphasises that the people are sovereign. In terms of the constitution, the people’s sovereignty is exercised by the Executive President, the legislative sovereignty by Parliament and the judicial sovereignty through the Courts of Law. The constitution says people are kings and the Executive, Legislative and Judicial arms should be at the service of the people and their well-being must be given the highest priority. To what extent this happens and to what extent the sovereignty of the people is reduced to words is quite another matter. Through the legal crisis over the impeachment motion we hope judges, lawyers and court officials will work to make the courts a place where even the poor people could come and get speedy relief at a low cost.
At present unfortunately there are long delays for unjustifiable reasons and lawyers are known to get rich at the expense of the litigants, especially in land cases.
For decades now the law’s delays have led to hundreds of cases where justice delayed has amounted to justice denied. Cases are postponed for months and sometimes years where justice is available only to the rich and the powerful while the poor and the powerless have to suffer the consequences of injustice.
We hope that after the current impeachment crisis -- where barbarians were at the doorstep of the temple of justice -- the district judges and magistrates will take bold and courageous initiatives to streamline the legal process so that it will be a refuge and a relief for the people. The lawyers also must realise that the legal process has been set up for the welfare of the people and not for lawyers to get rich. If unscrupulous lawyers try to drag or twist the case for their financial benefit the judges must intervene to do justice to the people. If corrupt politicians attempt to interfere with the legal process, judges need to have the courage to order them out or even haul them up on contempt charges. If the whole impeachment crisis produces the positive effect of streamlining the process of justice with the welfare of the people being given priority, then it will be a case of a calamity being turned into a blessing.