SRI LANKA: How does the Attorney General file indictments and how do Members of Parliament sign impeachment petitions? 

Basil Fernando

The Chief Justice (CJ) has refuted all allegations made against her contained in the much publicized impeachment motion filed in parliament.

(File Photo of the Chief Justice, Mrs. Shirani Bandaranayake)

The CJ’s legal representatives have said in a letter

“In the circumstances, in summary:

(a) Our Client has declared all her operative bank accounts having assets in her declaration of assets and liabilities; and

(b) After her appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court, our Client has not received any remittances from anyone in Sri Lanka or abroad save and except the remuneration as a judge and the remittances from her immediate family.

Thus, clearly, there has been no financial impropriety on her part.

Our Client totally denies the other allegations and can easily refute them.”

This raises a question as to how Members of Parliament (MP) sign impeachment petitions.
Do they merely sign these on orders from above or do they do so after sober reflection and on the assessment of facts?

It is useful to contrast how they do it and what the Attorney General (AG) is supposed to do when he/she files indictments.

Before preparing an indictment, the AG’s office studies the investigation file submitted to it by the investigating police. This will include whatever the suspect may have said in answer to the allegations, besides all other witnesses, including those witnesses who have made statements supportive of the suspect’s version.

Then, the officers who study the file make a proper assessment of available evidence and arrive at a reasoned out opinion as to whether there is adequate basis to proceed to file an indictment. It is only on that basis that a decision is taken to file an indictment.

In contrast to this, how do MPs sign impeachment motions? Do they study the issue and make up their minds with a proper assessment before doing so?

Since the matter of accusing anybody is a serious affair and accusing a Chief Justice, as in the present instance, is a very serious affair, shouldn’t the 118 MPs who signed have done so with the utmost seriousness or responsibility?

Did they act in that manner?

If not, have they not done a great injustice, not only to an individual, but also to the whole nation?