22 March, 2006 - Published 14:04 GMT

JSC appointments challenged

A senior counsel has urged the presiding judge of a Fundamental Rights case to hand over the petition to another judge on grounds of conflict of interest.

Counsel Elmo Perera has produced a FR petition against the appointment of two judges to the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) by the President without seeking recommendations from Constitutional Council (CC).

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has appointed justices Nihal Jayasinghe and NK Udalagama to the three-member JSC, headed by Chief Justice Sarath N Silva.

Conflict of interest

Counsel Perera has argued that the panel needs to be replaced as he has previously filed some cases against the current presiding jugde, Shirani Thilakawardhana.

The counsel said he could not expect a proper justice from a bench presided by justice Thilakawardhana.

But the judge ruled not to allow the request and postpone the hearing for 31 March.

Another member of the panel, judge NK Udalagama, announced that he would resign from the panel.

Legal experts said the three-member JSC has been made dysfunctional after the resignation of justices Shirani Bandaranaike and TB Weerasooriya.

The two senior judges have sent a letter of resignation to President Mahinda Rajapaksa saying they could not carry out duties to their conscience.

JSC resignations

Chief Justice Sarath Nanda Silva is the chairperson and the remaining member of the JSC.

Counsel Elmo Perera recalled that justice Bandaranaike was appointed twice as the acting chief justice in 2004 but nobody was appointed to the post when CJ Silva left the country twice last year.

“But this year somebody else, the fifth most senior judge in the Supreme Court, was suddenly appointed as the acting CJ,” he told earlier this month.

He questions whether it is worth to seek judicial remedy if the judiciary, where the public usually approach to rectify matters related to unjust appointments, commits the same violations.

Counsel Perera has also filed a Fundamental Rights petition to the Supreme Court asking for the authorities to fill the vacancies in the JSC created by the resignations of two senior judges.

The legislature is responsible to look into the claims made by two of the most senior judges in the country, he told BBC Sandeshaya.

“If two members out of the three in JSC, the highest judicial authority in the country, say that they cannot work with a conscience, there is something seriously wrong,” he added.