Dignity of Judiciary

Ceylon Today Editorial

Chief Justice Priyasath Dep has succeeded former Chief Justice Kanagasabapathy Sripavan as 45th Chief Justice of the Republic of Sri Lanka.

The former Chief Justice K. Sripavan’s tenure commenced with President Maithripala Sirisena swearing in as the sixth Executive President of Sri Lanka in January 2015.

Sri Lanka has a long history of following British tradition with regard to the Bench and Bar making immense contribution to maintain the independence and integrity of the legal fraternity in the island.

Legal giants of a bygone era not only excelled professionally but even academically upheld the dignity of the legal profession.

The steps and corridors of the Old Hulftsdorp Supreme Court complex will speak volumes of the days of the ‘golden era’ of the legal fraternity in the island.

The Hulftsdorp Supreme Court complex and its surrounding areas with the Sri Lanka Law College has produced eminent personalities from the time of its inception during the British era.

However, the dignity of the legal profession was in dire straits with the creation of the Executive Presidency in the island.

The judicial system largely turned into a ‘puppetry’ with political manipulation making inroads into the nerve centre of law and order in the country, paving the way for anarchy to take centre-stage.

Criticism surfacing against former Chief Justices Sarath N. Silva and Mohan Peiris clearly highlighted the sad state of the judicial system in the island.

The manner in which the country’s first woman Chief Justice, Dr. Sriyani Bandaranayake was treated by the Rajapaksa regime ridiculed the judicial system of the country.

Elevations and appointments were made depriving judicial servants with vast experience on the bench.

President Maithripala Sirisena’s recent revelation of former Chief Justice Mohan Peiris whose appointment was later declared as a de facto appointment and is not considered as a Chief Justice, had pointed out how a top figure in the Judiciary had stooped down to begging for an extension of his position as Chief Justice, with the change of government.

Mohan Peiris had also told President Sirisena that he would deliver judgments in a manner the President wanted!

Former Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva after his retirement, apart from appearing on political platforms of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had also made several comments on how he saved the former President when he faced several legal issues.

The tales of Mohan Peiris and Sarath N. Silva highlight how the Judiciary was taken for a ride by those who were in power.

The appointment of the 44th Chief Justice Kanagasabapathy Sripavan in 2015 paved way to regain the lost dignity of the country’s judicial system which was marred by the previous regime.

Former Chief Justice K.Sripavan, an ardent devotee of Nallur Skanda kept his security contingent at a safe distance during the annual festival of the Nallur temple and mingled with thousands of devotees enjoying the spiritual bliss of the Nallur deity.

With an unblemished record in the legal profession, former Chief Justice stepped down from the Supreme Bench at Hulftsdorp, handing over the flame of justice with dignity to his successor Chief Justice Priyasath Dep.

Since the National Unity Government has committed itself to create good governance, credibility in the judicial system should be strengthened from the minor Judiciary itself to the apex body.

Learning from the errors made in upholding the dignity, independence and integrity of the judicial system in the past, the new Chief Justice should be ensured by those in power that he is free of interference in carrying out his noble profession.