An year ago, we had the funeral of the independence of the judiciary with the repeal of the 17th amendment to the Constitution and with the introduction of the 18th amendment. Present Chief Justice led bench gave that milestone judgement that was heavily criticized even in the Commonwealth law journal, when she was in the good books of the ruling coalition. Unfortunately or fortunately she is facing an impeachment led by the same coalition today. Judiciary was part of that killing of the 17th amendment and here we see its repercussions today.
This is the second best case study in the most recent history in Sri Lanka where the citizens have evidenced how Chief Justice has been shifting the interpretations of law based on the change of favorite position of the executive. Yet, the one who came to bench during these two, who was appointed due to seniority with no political favourations managed to preserve the independence of the judiciary.
Supporting or not-supporting the current impeachment for me will not make any change to ensure the independence of the judiciary in this country. The present government will pass this impeachment as they say ‘constitutionally’ with a 2/3 majority in Parliament. However, another political friend will fill in that position: within or outside the hierarchy. Irrespective of the seniority. This cycle will continue while the international community and the opposition will continue raising their concern at every appointment, at every favourable judgement and at every impeachment.
Once we were happy that we kept the ‘full stop’ to this vicious cycle. We kept a democratic step forward by adding a 17th amendment to our constitution where the political appointments by the executive was constrained believing the fact that an impartial and an apolitical person needs to be heading the judiciary to ensure its independence for the betterment of this country.
At this juncture, I personally do not want to stand with or against the impeachment against the CJ. The political power struggles are such the friends and enemies are never permanent. If she goes back to good books, we will become the jokers and she might even give a judgement against you and I.
I strongly believe that the ideal citizenry demand at this juncture therefore should be to bring back the 17th amendment into the constitutional framework and to the practice. Let the ones who play politics face the music as the independence of the judiciary cannot be maintained by making the Supreme Court a favourite of the politicians. Therefore, in order to maintain the independence of the judiciary, it needs to be kept away from the political power struggle.
Im sure the citizenry of this country will continue missing the 17th amendment to the constitution every time the appointments are made and impeachments are brought it. Hence, the broader demand of each and every moment of this should be to bring the 17th amendment back to practice.