(September 20, 2009 - Lanka Polity) For the first time in history, a group of concerned citizens of Sri Lanka have lodged a complaint against an ex-chief justice. The complaint was recorded on September 17 before the Bribery or Corruption Investigation Commission against former Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva.
Silva, under whose authority the country's judiciary took a new turn, was publicly blamed by 'Ravaya' Sinhala newspaper editor-in-chief Victor Ivan in his book titled 'Unfinished Struggle' regarding a number of malpractices and misconducts. However, the retired Chief Justice who was appointed in 1996 to the post by then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumarathunga bypassing other senior judges, remained silent without denying the charges or taking legal action against Ivan.
Sarath N. Silva was considered an ardent loyal of former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumarathunga. Later he changed sides to current President Mahinda Rajapakse. Several judgments delivered by the ex-Chief Justice were crucial for Rajapakse on his path to be elected as the President.
The ex-Chief Justice's conduct was very controversial and in August 2001, the International Bar Association (IBA) concluded that there was "an overwhelming need for an independent credible judicial system" in Sri Lanka. It detailed instances of lack of accountability, breach of natural justice and potential for undue interference and pointed out that institutions which should be protecting the rule of law, including the President, government and the Chief Justice, were acting to undermine it.
He survived a a parliamentary opposition impeachment motion to remove him in June 2001 since it was restrained by the Supreme Court, which he himself headed.
Silva retired in June 2009 with a better image following delivering several judgments against the misuse of public property and there were moves to field him as the common candidate of the opposition in an upcoming Presidential election.
However, Silva may have to pass difficult hurfles before he can qualify to be the opposition common candidate since the government will browse the old files that can raise misconduct issues against him.
In the latest incident, some 'concerned' citizens have initiated legal action against him in relation to a controversial 'offering' done by a plaintiff of a case he heard in Supreme Court. Muhunthan Carnagey, the CEO of the CBN SAT sattelite television company whose business was suspended by the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission regarding a licence problem was granted some kind of relief by the Supreme Court and later the CEO offered a staggering Rs. 65 million to a company in which Silva was a director.
The company runs a television channel called 'The Buddhist' from a temple in Colombo city to propagate Buddhism and Silva is one of the main contributors in programmes.
Sarath N. Silva's 13-year career provides a cross view of Sri Lanka's judiciary system that is accused of being highly politicized and corrupt.