The impeachment of former Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake and the state of Sri Lanka’s judiciary is to be raised at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) at its 26th annual session which begins in Geneva this week.
The Asian Legal Resource Centre, a non-governmental organization, is to raise the issue under Agenda Item 3 of the session.
In a document titled ‘ASIA: Independence of judiciary, a mirage in South Asia’ which has already been circulated among members of the Council, the Asian Legal Resource Centre notes that the arbitrary dismissal in January 2013 of the former chief justice of Sri Lanka, Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake, the first female Chief Justice in South Asia, reflects the state of the independence of the judiciary in the region.
The document says though conditions prevailing in Sri Lanka are not exactly the same in the other South Asian countries of India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan where the Asian Legal Resource Centre is engaged, the fact is that the judiciary in all these countries is reduced to an institution that is unable to independently deliver upon its mandate.
“In Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, the judiciary has been reduced to a subordinate entity of the state, where the concept of separation of powers is at its lowest ebb if not absent. In India, though the judiciary is largely independent of executive control, its daily functioning is subjugated to the government, manifest in lack of adequate resources that have resulted in scandalous delay in adjudication. In Nepal, an acute situation exists, where even the appointment of judges and officers required for the judiciary to function meaningfully has not been done for the past four years. In Pakistan, the trend is on the upswing from abysmal depths, with the judiciary having begun to carve out some contours of fundamental independence, having been freed from six decades of military dictatorship,” the document adds.
The Asian Legal Resource Centre notes that in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, amendments have been made to existing legislations that prevent the judiciary from reviewing state actions on the excuse of executive immunity.
It adds that constituting an independent judiciary is a political policy that state must evolve and resolve but unfortunately, such a resolution is not anywhere close to fruition in South Asia.