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Lawyers unite in call for protection of judicial independence

 

Tuesday, 5 September 2023 00:45 –      – 113

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  • Stress courts have the right to review any proposal or regulation by Parliament 
  • Note such proposals do not have immunity from judicial process
  • Say there can be no direct or indirect obstruction to judicial process in reviewing Govt. actions

By Maneshka Borham

The Lawyers’ Collective holding a public seminar at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute yesterday called for the protection of the independence of the judiciary in Sri Lanka.

Addressing the seminar titled ‘The Executive, democracy and the Judiciary’ Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne PC said while the judiciary operates on behalf of the State, it is imperative for it to function independently, distinct from both the legislative and executive branches of Government.

“The President has recently declared that the Government will exclusively heed orders or advice regarding the debt optimisation program coming from the Parliament itself, excluding all input from external bodies and organisations. Meanwhile, the Speaker has asserted that the courts lack the authority to issue orders against proposals approved by the Parliament. It is clear that this assertion is flawed,” he noted.

Wickramaratne stressed that the courts have a right to review any proposal or regulation of Parliament.

“Unlike an Act of law, such a proposal or regulation has no immunity from the judicial process as held by the late Justice C.G. Weeramantry in the 1968 case of Ram Banda v. River Valleys Development Board,” he recalled.

“Therefore as the Lawyers’ Collective, we stress that according to the constitution, there can be no direct or indirect obstruction to the judicial process in reviewing Government actions,” he added.

Wickramaratne emphasised that the legal fraternity has now united in their unwavering commitment to democracy, the rule of law, and judicial independence, collectively speaking out on behalf of the judiciary, which is constrained in articulating its apprehensions amid threats to its independence.

Speaking at the seminar, Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) former President Saliya Peiris expressed the Lawyers’ Collective’s aspiration that the legal community will persist in advocating for the rights of the people.

“We hope the legal community will have the strength to safeguard the independence of the judiciary. This is why the Indian newspaper The Hindu once identified the legal community as the voice of reason,” he said.

Peiris observed that the ongoing economic crisis is, in essence, an outcome of a governance crisis, underscoring the need to fortify various institutions, including the judiciary, during such a critical juncture.

The seminar was attended by members of the legal fraternity including past presidents of the BASL, legal scholars and academics, civil society groups and activists.

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