Sri Lanka levels 14 charges against chief justice

AP News
Posted: Nov 06, 2012 5:35 AM
Sri Lanka levels 14 charges against chief justice

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka's government has accused the country's chief justice of not disclosing income and property among 14 charges cited in an impeachment bid against her.

The Parliament is meeting Tuesday to discuss setting up a committee to investigate the charges against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake that were handed to speaker Chamal Rajapaksa last week.

The charges are listed in Parliament's order paper and say Bandaranayake by her actions has "plunged the Supreme Court and the office of chief justice into disrepute."

It says Bandaranayake did not disclose how she obtained 19 million rupees ($146,000) to pay for a house purchased under power of attorney for another person, and says that she took control of several cases filed against the company that sold the property, having removed the judges who originally heard the cases.

Bandaranayake is also accused of not declaring details of 20 bank accounts, including four foreign currency ones worth a total of 34 million rupees ($260,000).

The order paper says that Bandaranayake is unfit to remain chief justice because she has the power to transfer or take disciplinary action against judges or examine case documents when her husband, a former state bank chairman is on trial for corruption.

She is also accused of misusing her position to harass other judges.

Opposition parties and independent analysts say the impeachment is politically motivated and an attempt to stifle the independence of the judiciary as part of a government scheme to concentrate power in the hands of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The speaker is his older brother.

If the committee finds a valid case the motion will be debated and voted on and the president will informed of the outcome for further action. With the ruling coalition controlling more than two-thirds of the Parliament seats, the motion is expected to be carried easily.

The impeachment follows months of conflict between the Parliament controlled by President Rajapaksa and the judiciary.

Secretary of the Judicial Services Commission Manjula Thilakaratne was assaulted last month after he publicly said powerful people were trying to interfere with its work and judges and their families were under threat.

Opposition parties accused the government for the attack but the government has denied responsibility.

Bandaranayake particularly came under government criticism after she ruled that a government bill contradicts the constitution.