Judges should not have agendas – Attorney General

Judges should not have agendas – Attorney General

Judges should not have agendas – Attorney General

Written by Zulfick Farzan

21 Jan, 2021 | 1:16 pm

Colombo (News 1st); Judges cannot use the judicial platform to satisfy 3rd party and personal interest and have agendas and should at all times avoid possible conflicts of interest, said Attorney General Dappula De Livera on Thursday (21).

He was speaking at the Ceremonial Sitting to welcome Justice Janak De Silva, Justice Achala Wengappuli, and Justice Mahinda Samayawardhena to the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka.

The backlog of cases in Sri Lanka is a perennial problem and it has to be addressed urgently and quickly, methodically and efficiently and to deliver speedy justice and prevent Law delays without compromising the quality of justice, he said.

Public confidence in the judiciary is dependent on the independence and integrity of the judiciary, said the Attorney General.

The sovereignty is in the people and is alienable and that sovereignty of the people is exercised by the judiciary in the public trust, he added.

FULL STATEMENT BY THE ATTORNEY GENERAL;

To welcome His Lordship Justice Janak De Silva, His Lordship Justice Achala Wengappuli and His Lordship Justice Mahinda Samayawardhena.

On the 21st day of January 2021 My Lord the Chief Justice, Your Ladyships and Your Lordships, It is my singular privilege and honour to welcome Your Lordship Justice Janak De Silva, Your Lordship Justice Achala Wengappuli and Your Lordship Justice Mahinda Samayawardhena to the Apex court of the country on behalf of the entire Bar at this august assembly.

My Lords, Justice De Silva and Justice Wengappuli, you commenced your legal careers and were moulded and imbued in the Attorney General’s Department with that knowledge and exposure and a value base and high ethical standards, and during that long and faithful service to the Institution of the Attorney General, you served with distinction, dedication and commitment and Your Lordships finally adorned the  Bench and embarked on a career in the Judiciary which has now already spanned several years.

Your Lordship Justice Mahinda Samayawardhena, you are a career Judge who has come through a long arduous but rewarding journey, which has merited your appointment to this Apex Court. You are renowned for speedy justice and I have no doubt that Your Lordship will play a pivotal role in efficient disposal of cases by this court.

There is no doubt that Lordships are well equipped and experienced to undertake the responsibilities and discharge the functions of this onerous and exalted office. Your Lordship’s entry to this court will no doubt strengthen embellish and fortify the quality of justice delivered by the court.

I have also no doubt that today, must be a very satisfying and memorable day for Your Lordships. A sense of achievement and accomplishment no doubt. It would also be a time and a day to look back and reflect on the past and take stock of that long journey and reaffirm your commitment to overcome challenges and uphold the rule of Law meting out good quality justice to the yearning men women and children of this country.

Now the task is daunting and the challenges are innumerable which has been compounded by the Covid-19 Pandemic in the country.

The backlog of cases is a perennial problem, It has to be addressed urgently and quickly, methodically and efficiently and to deliver speedy justice and prevent Laws delays without compromising the quality of justice thereby, winning the confidence of the people.

This issue has to be addressed by Lordship’s Court holistically. The Bench and the Bar have to get together to solve this problem. In Sri Lanka, the courts have quite justly come to be regarded as the sentinel over the powers of the legislature and the executive in order to safeguard the rights of the citizen under the law and the constitution.

The credibility of a judicial system in a country is dependent on the Judges who man it. Judges must be persons of impeccable integrity and unimpeachable independence. A Judge must discharge his judicial functions with high integrity, impartially and intellectual honesty.

Speaking of Intellectual honesty; the law would be like a ball of clay in the hands of an erudite Judge. Therefore, Judges should be ruthlessly honest, independent, and impartial and possess a judicial conscience to ensure that the ball of clay is moulded according to law.

For over 2000 years of the Island’s long history, the Courts of Law have occupied a unique place in the system of government. Public acceptance of the judiciary and public confidence in the judiciary is necessary for the rule of law to prevail in the country. Public confidence in the judiciary is dependent on the independence and integrity of the judiciary.

Public confidence in the judiciary cannot be built unless Judges display a high level of integrity impartiality and independence in their judgements, pronouncements and orders and through their conduct.

The sovereignty is in the people and is alienable and that sovereignty of the people is exercised by the judiciary in the public trust. The independence and the integrity of the judiciary ought to be preserved for justice and the rule of law to prevail in a society. A judiciary should not only be independent but appear to be independent in order to gain the
confidence of the people.

An independent judiciary is the corner of stone of the prevalence of the rule of law in a democratic society.  The essence of rule of law has been said to be that the Administration is bound by the law and that in it cannot interfere with the rights of the individual except in accordance with the law.

The International Congress of Jurists meeting in New Delhi in January 1959 concluded “that an independent judiciary is an indispensable requisite for a free society and for the Rule of Law to prevail in a society. The independence and impartially of the judiciary is essential for a democratic system of government to function under the Rule of Law.

The maintenance of the independence of Judges and of the quality of the administration of justice would largely depend on the Judges themselves and the state of public opinion of the country, which demands their independence and impartially.

Within the limits of their power and jurisdiction the courts are required to perform a dynamic role as the fearless upholders of the principle of equal justice under the rule of law.

“Not all the guns of the Garrison leveled at their Lordships would intimidate the Court” said Chief Justice Carrington in 1804 to General Wemyss who was brought up on a charge of contempt of court and had appeared with his staff wearing sidearms and bayonets.

In 1937 Chief Justice Abhrams questioned the deportation order of Mark Anthony Bracegirdle and said “the crown takes its stand upon what it submits are the unquestionable absolute powers of the governor and it is our duty to say that those powers are limited. The governor’s order was made without Authority. The arrest and detention was illegal and Mr. Bracegirdle must be released”.

The Courts must necessarily occupy a high position of power, privilege and independence in the life of a nation. The Judges in the exercise of judicial functions should be immune from outside control and influence and intimidation.

That independence is also necessary from the other branches of government and from private and partisan interests.

Judges cannot use the judicial platform to satisfy 3rd party and personal interest and have agendas and should at all times avoid possible conflicts of interest.

United States Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito said on his elevation in 2006; “Good Judges don’t have agendas. They don’t look for partisan outcomes and always do what the law requires and demands. A Judge cannot have any agendas and a Judge cannot have a preferred outcome in particular case”.

Judges should be above suspicion and should not leave even a glimpse for that suspicion to occur. When Pompeia the wife Julius Ceasar secretly sneaked a man dressed as a woman into a roman religious ceremony. Her husband divorced her. It was girly prank. But the discovery of the man celebrating the mysteries of Bona Dea in the male free temple scandalised Ancient Romans and led to remours that Pompeia is having an affair. Pompeia hadn’t committed
adultery but it didn’t wash with Ceasar who kicked her to touch and insisted that his wife must be above suspicion.

Judges like Ceasar’s wife must also be above suspicion and the fundamental principle is that there should not be even a hint of bias or prejudice in the judicial process as is as vital today as it was 118 years ago when Lord Bowen famously compared judges to Ceasar’s wife. The people will be judging you when you are judging them. Therefore, that accountability and transparency ought to be seen and perceived from the judgments, pronouncements and orders that are delivered by the Courts.

Judge Ralph Mac Allister on the occasion of taking oaths as a Judge in the State of Ohio in December 1976, prayed for the Court as follows; He prayed that the Court always function with honour and integrity.

That its pronouncements always be just. That its proceedings be conducted impartially. And finally that all its actions preserved the Peace and Dignity, the Rights and Prerogatives and the freedom and morality of all the people. That is my prayer too for this court.  Before I conclude may I wish your Your Lordships good health and a fruitful and productive tenure in office. May the blessings of the Noble Triple Gem guide you and protect you always, My Lords!

Thank You!
Dappula De Livera, P.C.
Attorney General

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