Changes should be consistent with C’wealth’s fundamental values
The Commonwealth Lawyers Association, issuing a statement on the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, called on the Executive and the Legislature to ensure that the proposed constitutional changes are consistent with the Commonwealth’s fundamental values and international standards relating to the independence of the Judiciary and the separation of powers.
The Association comprises the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association, the Commonwealth Legal Education Association, Commonwealth Lawyers Association, Commonwealth Journalists Association and the Rechters voor Rechters (Judges for Judges).
They expressed concern about the impact the 20th Amendment to the Constitution Bill would have on the independence and impartiality of the Judiciary, if adopted.
“Of particular concern are the amendments proposed relating to the Judiciary and to the Judicial Services Commission (JSC). The Government of Sri Lanka specifically affirmed the adherence to the Commonwealth (Latimer House) Principles on the Accountability of and Relationship between the Three Arms of Government (The Principles) and to the Commonwealth Charter. The appointment process, whether or not involving an appropriately constituted and representative JSC, should be designed to guarantee the quality and the independence of those selected for appointment at all levels. The Model Law on JSCs endorsed by Commonwealth Law Ministers at their meeting in Nassau, Bahamas in October 2017, commends the creation of an independent JSC composed of judges, representatives of the legal profession and lay members representing the civil society through an independent appointments process. The current proposed Parliamentary Council, composed of Parliamentarians or nominees thereof in no way conforms to the spirit of an independent body, Furthermore, proposed provisions give the President powers to make any senior judicial appointments without specific approval or advice from the Parliamentary Council as the President is only required to obtain the observations of the Parliamentary Council. This is contrary to the Commonwealth (Latimer House) Principles as well as the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary and to the spirit of the separation of powers and the Commonwealth Charter and would in effect relegate the Judiciary to a position inferior to that of the Executive and the Legislature. This is contrary to the rule of law and the basic tenets of the principle of the separation of powers,” they said.