Highly placed government sources told Asian Mirror that impeached Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake is to take oaths as the Chief Justice this evening.
If Mohan Peiris, the sitting Chief Justice, does not leave office before Shirani Bandaranayake’s reinstatement, the country will have two Chief justices – an unprecedented situation in the country’s legal history.
Sources from the President’s office, on Wednesday, told Asian Mirror that the President was exploring the possibility of issuing ‘marching orders’ to the sitting CJ on the grounds that the impeachment process of the ousted CJ was flawed. The President and the Cabinet of ministers have already acknowledged that the impeachment of Shirani Bandaranayake was flawed and therefore ‘illegal”.
Meanwhile, there were rumours floating around on Wednesday morning that the Chief Justice 44 had left his office due to mounting pressure by lawyers and civil society. This was flatly denied by Wijeratne kodippili, de facto spokesperson of CJ Mohan Peiris, a short while ago.
However, according to top legal experts who spoke to Asian Mirror on Wednesday on conditions of anonymity, issuing ‘marching orders’ is not an acceptable and democratic way of ousting a Chief Justice.
On the other hand, it also gives rise to a question on the validity of judgments given by Mohan Peiris, who is the sitting chief Justice.
A senior Cabinet Minister said the sitting CJ’s judgments could be validated by Parliament, through a simple majority, despite his “illegal” and “flawed” appointment. “The legislature always stays above the judiciary and that has been affirmed a few times in the country’s legal system,” he added.
The present Sri Lankan constitution too has provisions (article 119-2) to validate judgments given by Mohan Peiris, notwithstanding his removal.
Be that as it may, the entire process however will set a bad precedence to the country in terms of ousting judges at the discretion of governments that come to power.