COLOMBO: Justice Kanakasabapathi Sripavan will be the second Tamil to be Chief Justice of the Sri Lankan Supreme Court when he takes over on Friday following the retirement of Shirani Bandaranayake.
The first Tamil to hold the highest judicial post in Sri Lanka was Suppiah Sharvananda, who served between 1984 and 1988.
Born in 1952, Sripavan was educated at the Jaffna Hindu College and the Law College in Colombo. After a short stint at the private bar in the late 1970s, he joined the Attorney General‘s Office as a government counsel. He rose to be Deputy Solicitor General before he was appointed a judge in the Court of Appeal. He was party to many landmark judgments when he was raised to the Supreme Court.
As the then Chief Justice, Mohan Peiris, was due for removal on the grounds that his appointment was illegal, Sri Lanka’s new President, Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, chose to be sworn in by Justice Sripavan rather than CJ Mohan Peiris. At any rate, Sripavan was the senior most Supreme Court judge.
Sripvan’s predecessor, Shirani Bandaranayake, had assumed office on Wednesday following her re-instatement through a Presidential order sacking Chief Justice Mohan Peiris. However, on re-instatement, she said that she would put in her papers for immediate retirement. According to her attorney, K.Neelakandan, she was not interested in the office but only wanted justice to be done to her, and that was done when she was reinstated.
However, political sources said that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his United National Party (UNP) did not want Bandaranayake to continue as Chief Justice because she had earlier ruled that the draconian 18 th.Amendment introduced by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was in accordance with the constitution.
The 18 th.Amendment had repealed the 17 th. Amendment to abolish the Independent Commissions and to lift the cap on the number of terms a President could seek. The 17 th.Amendment, which had set up Independent Commissions, was the brainchild of the UNP.
The 18 th. Amendment was a blatant attempt to further beef up the already powerful Executive Presidency, an institution which the UNP had been wanting to abolish or drastically prune.
Despite the ire against Bandaranayake’s ruling on the 18 th. Amendment, the UNP was committed to reinstating her to prove that it is against arbitrary and capricious removal of judges bypassing the due process. Her reinstatement was put in the manifesto of the Joint Opposition Presidential Candidate, Maithripala Sirisena.