Sri Lanka lawyers demand quashing of impeachment

November 28, 2012 - 12:00:00 am

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan lawyers have asked the Supreme Court to declare parliament’s impeachment of the chief justice illegal, a legal spokesman said yesterday, a move that could trigger a constitutional crisis.

The influential Bar Association representing the country’s 11,000 lawyers has petitioned the Supreme Court to rule against the impeachment by a parliamentary panel, the spokesman for the association said.

It was the first time the main professional legal body had united to oppose the move against Shirani Bandaranayake, which has raised international concern that the government is trying to control the judiciary

A parliamentary committee on Friday held the first day of a closed-door hearing against Bandaranayake, who has said there was not an “iota” of truth in allegations against her.

The Supreme Court has asked that the hearings be suspended pending its decision on the legality of the process.

But parliament has insisted it was supreme and could not be dictated to by the judiciary. Ruling party legislators have also warned the Supreme Court not to interfere.

The impeachment hearing against the 54-year-old Bandaranayake, Sri Lanka’s first female chief justice, is due to reconvene on December 4.

“It is an unconstitutional interference with the judiciary, a disregard of the rule of law, and the violation of the fundamental rights of the bar,” Bar Association head Wijedasa Rajapakse told reporters.