Sri Lankan impeachment panel finds chief justice guilty

COLOMBO Sat Dec 8, 2012 11:21pm IST

1 of 3. Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake (front L) is blessed by Christian priests before leaving the Supreme Court for the Parliament to appear before the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) appointed to look into impeachment charges against her, in Colombo December 4, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's chief justice has been found guilty on three counts by an impeachment panel, a government minister said on Saturday, in a case that has raised international concerns about the independence of the judiciary.

"We have found her guilty of three charges out of the first five we have investigated," Nimal Siripala de Silva, minister of irrigation and a member of the impeachment committee, told reporters.

He said the charges against Shirani Bandaranayake included financial irregularities, conflict of interest, and failure to declare her assets.

"This is a one-sided political decision," said Vijitha Herath, one of four opposition legislators who withdrew from the impeachment panel on Friday, calling it unfair.

A lawyer for Bandaranayake said she had been framed, describing her as the victim of a "set-up job".

"It's a joke. Obviously the report has been written before the evidence-giving is finished," the lawyer told Reuters.

Tension has risen between the judiciary and government since President Mahinda Rajapaksa's party filed a motion against Bandaranayake, Sri Lanka's first female head of the Supreme Court, in parliament last month.

Bandaranayake had come under criticism from the government for ruling against a bill proposing a budget of 80 billion rupees for development, saying it had to be approved by nine provincial councils.

The ruling angered the government and its backers, some of whom accused the judiciary of overstepping its authority.

MISCONDUCT ALLEGATION

Under impeachment proceedings launched last month, parliament speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, the president's elder brother, appointed a committee of 11 members, seven of them from the ruling party, to investigate 14 charges against Bandaranayake, ranging from not disclosing her wealth to professional misconduct.

The United States, the United Nations and the Commonwealth have raised concerns about the process and called on the government to ensure the independence of the judiciary.

Analysts say the case could add to international scrutiny of Sri Lanka. It is already under pressure from the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees to prosecute soldiers over the deaths of thousands of civilians during the final months of a three-decade war with Tamil rebels that ended in May 2009.

Parliament is expected to vote on the impeachment when it sits after January 8. Rajapaksa, whose party has a more than two-thirds majority, needs only 113 votes in the 225-member legislature to remove the chief justice from her post. (Writing by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Economy

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Pharma Sector

Pharma Sector

In race for bigger margins, drug makers willing to lose the India "advantage".  Full Article 

Jan Dhan Yojna

Jan Dhan Yojna

Modi: Banking for all to end "financial untouchability".  Full Article 

Power Outage

Power Outage

India may face blackouts as coal shortage cuts power output  Full Article 

Moody's on Inflation

Moody's on Inflation

Persistent inflation hurting India's sovereign ratings - Moody's  Full Article 

Tracking Monsoon

Tracking Monsoon

Monsoon forecast to be better for crops next week  Full Article 

Carmichael Project

Carmichael Project

Adani buys Australia coal mine royalty rights from Linc for $145 million  Full Article 

GDP Preview

GDP Preview

Economy likely grew faster in June quarter: Reuters poll.  Full Article 

India-Japan Meet

India-Japan Meet

Modi eyes breakthrough nuclear pact on Japan trip   Full Article 

Rare Earth Output

Rare Earth Output

India to chip in with 5 pct of global rare earth output  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage