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Politically Appointed judge

The appointment of a judge on a recommendation made by a political party would have struck at the very foundations of judicial independence said former President Mahinda Rajapaksa with regard to the appointment of Ramanathan Kannan, a lawyer practicing at the private bar in Batticaloa, as a High Court Judge.

In a press communiqué released yesterday, Rajapaksa noted that the Judicial Services Association (JSA) of Sri Lanka has strongly objected to the appointment. Rajapaksa further noted that incumbent Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapakshe had informed the JSA that a certain political party had on an earlier occasion requested of him that Kannan be appointed to the High Court, a request which the latter had turned down.

The press communiqué further reads: "The accepted practice in this country is that virtually all the judges serving on the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and High Court are promoted to those positions through the ranks of the judicial service or to a lesser extent, the Attorney General's Department. This system of promotion based on seniority and merit is one of the pillars on which the independence of the judiciary rests. On very rare occasions past governments have appointed eminent members of the private bar as Supreme Court judges. Former CJ Neville Samarakoon and Justice Mark Fernando came into the Supreme Court in that manner. In the nine years that I was President, I appointed only one Supreme Court judge from the private bar. No members of the private bar were appointed to either the Court of Appeal or the High Court by my government."

He further added that Kannan had been appointed to the High Court over the heads of dozens of senior members of the judiciary and officials of the Attorney General's Department. The JSA had pointed out that if the need was to appoint a Tamil speaking judge for the North and East, the District Judge of Vavuniya D. L. A. Manaf would have been the most qualified candidate.Rajapaksa added that nobody would have objected if a Tamil speaking candidate of suitable seniority and competence had been selected for this position from within the judicial service or the AG's Department. The Judicial Services Commission had told the JSA that they recommended Kannan's appointment at a request made by the President following representations made to him by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, the press communiqué further stated. According to Rajapaksa the President had also stated at a public gathering that he had made this appointment on a request made by the BASL. However, the Secretary of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka has informed the JSA that they had not made any such recommendation, Rajapaksa observed.

"Therefore this request has come only from certain individuals in the BASL. In any case, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka has no constitutional, legal or moral right to make recommendations for the appointment of judges. If the private bar is given the power to recommend the appointment of judges, that would corrupt the entire legal system with judges being dependent on the lawyers appearing before them for promotions and appointments," Rajapaksa stated in the press communiqué.