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:

Politics of Religion

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Fund Raising

Fund Raising

Flipkart raises $700 million in fresh funding.   Full Article 

Reforms Push

Reforms Push

Modi may order insurance, coal reforms if vote delayed - officials.  Full Article 

Reuters Exclusive

Reuters Exclusive

India looks to sway Americans with nuclear power insurance plan  Full Article 

To Boost Growth

To Boost Growth

Crank up public spending to revive growth - chief economic adviser.   Full Article 

Bold Steps

Bold Steps

SpiceJet rescue plan marks bold bet on Indian aviation recovery.   Full Article 

New Airline

New Airline

Tata, Singapore Air venture Vistara to take off on Jan 9.  Full Article 

Online Sales

Online Sales

Knock knock. Who's there? Amazon's best-selling holiday author.  Full Article 

Chinese Economy

Chinese Economy

China revises up size of 2013 economy, sees no effect on 2014 growth.  Full Article 

Reuters Poll

Reuters Poll

BSE Sensex to hit 32,980 by December 2015  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

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