The Yahapalana Government authorities had been trying to reward the BAR Association, who played a major role in changing the Government in 2015, posed a threat to the independence of the Judiciary by irregularly appointing High Court Judges, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa said today.
Issuing a press release he stated that some office bearers of the Bar Association were trying to abuse their power to appoint judges, despite the damage that would do to the entire legal system.
Commenting on the recent appointed Mr. Ramanathan Kannan as a HC judge, he said the accepted practice in the country was all the judges serving on the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and High Court were promoted to those positions through the ranks of the Judicial Service or to a lesser extent.
“This system of promotion based on seniority and merit is one of the pillars on which the independence of the Judiciary rests. On very rare occasions past Governments have appointed eminent members of the private Bar as Supreme Court Judges” Mr. Rajapaksa said.
He said that during the nine years of his tenure as the President, he had appointed only one Supreme Court Judge from the private Bar and no other members of the private Bar were appointed to either the Court of Appeal or the High Court.
Minister of Justice Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe had recently informed the Judicial Services Commission that a certain political party had on an earlier occasion requested of him that Mr. Kannan be appointed to the High Court – a request he had turned down.
“The appointment of a judge on a recommendation made by a political party would have shook the very foundations of judicial independence,” he said.
However, Judicial Services Association has pointed out that if the need was to appoint a Tamil speaking judge for the North and East, the District Judge of Vavuniya D.L.A. Manaf would have been the most qualified candidate. Nobody would have objected if a Tamil speaking candidate of suitable seniority and competence had been selected for this position from within the judicial service.
“The request has come only from certain individuals in the BASL. In any case, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka has no Constitutional, legal or moral right to make recommendations for the appointment of judges. If the private bar is given the power to recommend the appointment of judges, that would corrupt the entire legal system with judges being dependent on the lawyers appearing before them for promotions and appointments.
“The reason why Mr. Kannan was made a High Court judge over the heads of many dozens of serving judicial officers and Senior State Counsel in the AG’s Department is also obviously to reward a certain political party that provided a block vote to get the President elected,” the former President said.
Mr. Rajapaksa also stated that the BAR Association is politicized in a way no other professional body in this country is – whether it be that of engineers, doctors, architects, planters, public administrators, or accountants.
“Being a lawyer myself, I wish to call upon the legal fraternity to take resolute action to end the politicisation of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka and most importantly, to get the President to reverse the decision to appoint Mr. Kannan to the High Court. It is essential to abide by the accepted practice in making judicial appointments so as to safeguard the independence of the judiciary,” he said. (Thilanka Kanakarathna)