Sacked Lankan Chief Justice Says His Removal Was Unconstitutional

Published: 31st January 2015 10:50 PM  |   Last Updated: 01st February 2015 09:29 PM   |  A+A-

Chief Justice Mohan Peiris

COLOMBO : The sacked Chief Justice of Sri Lanka, Mohan Peiris, said on Saturday, that his removal from office by President Maithripala Sirisena earlier in the week, was unconstitutional, and that he has had to succumb to injustice and undue street level pressure.

“I have not retired, resigned or vacated my office of Chief Justice, but, due to exertions by external forces reinforced by an extra judicial chain of events, find myself displaced from office by an unconstitutional process having functioned continuously in my appointment for over two years,” Peiris said in a statement.  

“There are times when might overtakes right and the helpless have to succumb to injustice,” he added.

 “I abhor and despise and do not encourage the enactment of street dramas or of invoking vengeance by resorting to horrific practices of the occult or encourage rabble rousing on pavements by a few members of the legal fraternity with their storm troopers or rouse the judiciary to come to the assistance of an affected Judicial Officer, as witnessed in the recent past,” Peiris said in his statement.

“Offering patronage to such events demeans the office of the Chief Justice. It promotes division or dissension within the Bar for selfish returns. I look upon myself as a Chief Justice and a citizen, who was empowered to carry out the solemn duty of ensuring the sovereignty of the people in the midst of great institutions such as the Judiciary and the Bar. These Institutions must retain their dignity perennially - not for a passing hour or a day of glory and must not descend to a pedestrian level,” he said.

Justice K. Sripavan took oaths as the 44th Chief Justice of Sri Lanka before President Maithripala Sirisena, replacing Shirani Bandaranayake who had retired just a day after being reinstated in that position.  

Bandaranayake’s Removal was valid

Peiris pointed out in his statement that he was appointed to the post of Chief Justice after his predecessor Bandaranayake was removed by the required Parliamentary majority (155 to 49) in January 2013.  President Rajapaksa had appointed him by a warrant to the post of Chief Justice on January 15,2013, with the concurrence of the Parliamentary Council.

Peiris maintained that the parliamentary ruling was “final and conclusive” and those who exercised their vote on the same are “debarred” from contesting its validity.

“It is significant that Hon Rajitha Senaratne was a member of panel of inquiry that probed the charges against Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake and found her unanimously guilty with the other members on some charges and acquitted on others and The Hon President Maithripala Sirisena spoke and voted in favor of the removal of the former Chief Justice,” Peiris pointed out.

“This is quite contrary to the position taken up now that my appointment was purportedly void ab initio. I am saddened that this machination comes after attempts to coerce me and later intimidate me into stepping down,” he said.  

“It must be noted that I could only have been removed from Office in terms of the specific provisions contained in Article 107 (2) of the Constitution after an address of Parliament,” he said.

Impeachment by parliament is the only way to remove the Chief Justice or any judge of the higher judiciary. Peiris had been removed by executive action without an impeachment by parliament.

“This violates the principle of the separation of powers which is a fundamental feature of our Constitution and renders the exercise futile. As such all consequential acts will be tainted with illegality,” Peiris said.

Parliament to Debate Issue  

This was pointed out by opposition leaders Wimal Weerawansa and Dinesh Gunawardane in parliament on Friday. They demanded an immediate debate. But Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that Bandaranayake was not impeached by a constitutionally valid process and that there was no vacancy of the post of Chief Justice when Peiris was appointment to it.

This caused an uproar in the House which had to be adjourned twice. Finally, President Sirisena announced that parliament will debate the issue on February 2.

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