Interjecting during CID questioning of Mahinda: Ex CJ in breach of Constitution? | Sunday Observer

Interjecting during CID questioning of Mahinda: Ex CJ in breach of Constitution?

A Government politico is mulling a complaint to the Supreme Court against former Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva, who may have acted in the capacity of legal consultant and advisor to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa during the latter’s interview with the CID last week, while legal experts said his conduct was unprecedented by a former judge of the upper courts who was prohibited from engaging in private legal practice after retirement by specific provisions in Sri Lanka’s constitution.

Deputy Minister of Social Empowerment Ranjan Ramanayake told the Sunday Observer that the former Chief Justice had been present while CID officials questioned the former

President regarding the night of journalist Keith Noyahr’s abduction and interjected the questioning on several occasions on his behalf.

“This is the same former Chief Justice that on a previous occasion asked the people of this country for forgiveness for sending a person who ought to have been sent to the prison, to the presidential palace instead, referring to Mahinda Rajapaksa,” the Deputy Minister said.

Ramanayake recalled that he had already lodged a complaint against Silva at the CID for making an open statement in Panadura about his controversial Helping Hambantota judgment over which the former Chief Justice apologised to the nation.

“I have filed this complaint as a citizen of this country who is affected by the former CJ’s own admission of a politically motivated decision given in favour of Mahinda Rajapaksa,” the Deputy Minister said.

Commenting on the issue, President’s Counsel J.C. Weliamuna told the Sunday Observer the most alarming factor was that the former Chief Justice appeared to be interfering in a criminal investigation despite having no standing to do so. “The issue is that if a retired Chief Justice is appearing for someone or pleading something he must understand that virtually he has no status. He has no status to interfere. That’s an interference of a criminal investigation. He’s not an Attorney at Law anymore. It’s an interference with a criminal investigation.” Weliamuna PC said.

While Article 110 (3) of constitution expressly states prohibits retired judges of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal from engaging in legal practice, and the former Chief Justice may have violated this provision by interjecting during the CID interrogation of former President Rajapaksa, Weliamuna pointed out that what was worse was that this action had set a bad precedent.

“Never has a former judge of a Supreme Court or Court of Appeal ever appeared with a potential suspect or a witness in a criminal case. It’s demeaning the office more than anything else,” the senior lawyer explained.

A leading constitutional lawyer who commented on the basis of anonymity, told the Sunday Observer that Silva’s actions were completely unethical.

“When a judge is barred from appearing any forum is it ethical for him to give legal advice and to be part of a legal team when a law enforcement authority goes and questions a witness. It may not be a strict violation of the constitution but it is highly unethical,” the top lawyer asserted.

The CID reportedly told the Mount Lavinia Magistrate last Monday (20) that the former Chief Justice had been present as part of Rajapaksa’s legal team when he was questioned at his Wijerama Mawatha residence on August 17.

Despite repeated attempts to reach the former Chief Justice on the telephone over two days, he was unavailable for comment.