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Use valid criteria in making appointments to Apex Courts -- BASL

2014 May 02

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) the premier body that represents the country’s legal fraternity yesterday said proper and valid criteria should be used when appointments are made to the apex courts and that this should be transparently evident for all to see.

Writing to the branch associations, the BASL Secretary Ajith Pathirana yesterday stated that the appointment of judges to the apex courts is a matter of vital concern to the judiciary, members of the bar and, indeed, to all citizens of the country.  “It is unnecessary to emphasize that, it is the Judges of the Apex Courts who mould and determine the Law that affects all citizens and who finally decide on the rights of citizens,” the BASL secretary wrote, requesting the views of its entire membership with regard to an impending appointment to the Supreme Court.   

Daily Mirror learns that attorney-at-law Priyantha Jayawardena is to be appointed to the Supreme Court to fill one of the vacancies created by the retirement of Justices Shiranee Tilakawardena and Sathya Hettige.

The BASL urged the presidents of its regional associations to convene meetings with the participation of all members to discuss and formulate their views with regard to the appointment and forward their views within ten days.  

The BASL secretary Mr. Pathirana, in his letter stated that the merits of the appointment should be clear and it should be obvious that, the time honoured and treasured values of clear eligibility, seniority and merit have been taken into account. Further, if the entire legal system is to duly function, there must be confidence that career judges can confidently aspire to reach the apex courts in the course of a long judicial tenure.

“As you may recall, these criteria were followed in the past but, in more recent years, concerns keep arising as to whether these salutary criteria are being no longer considered and whether appointments are made at the whim of the appointing authority who appears to wield unfettered powers under the Law as it now stands,” he wrote.

He continued: “As you would also be aware, the Constitutional Council, which functioned for a period, formulated, for all to see, the criteria which should be followed when judges are appointed to the Apex Courts. However, with the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, these essential safeguards have been stripped away.

“We believe that most members of the Bar find these issues to be of very grave concern. We believe that such issues of grave concern to the entire Bar should be discussed ,to the fullest extent, by the members of our profession throughout our country so that, the view of the entire legal profession can be made known and, we hope, be considered.”

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