Bar Association deeply concerned over meeting for judicial officers

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has expressed deep concerns over media reports related to a meeting conducted for judicial officers.

In a latter to the Chief Justice and Judicial Services Commission, the BASL said that the meeting titled “Matters relating to judicial proceedings in the context of the Covid-19 Pandemic” was conducted by the Sri Lanka Judges’ Institute.

Non-judicial personnel including at least one official whose administrative orders and decisions form part of the matters that are currently under judicial consideration in several cases that have been filed or are pending before Courts, also attended the meeting.

The BASL notes that according to media reports, at the meeting/webinar the issue of trade union protests and the role of the courts also came up for discussion.

Judicial officers had reportedly been given instructions on the use of certain sections of the Criminal Procedure Code to control public gatherings on account of the pandemic situation in the country.

According to the BASL there was a perception among judicial officers that there was an effort to impress upon them to give orders, the police request to curb protests.

The BASL said that this impacts the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and public confidence in the administration of justice.

Issuing a statement, the BASL said that the Constitution requires every judicial officer to decide every case based on the facts and circumstances of that particular case and the applicable law.

“Every party before court has an expectation that his / her case will be decided upon on its own merits, upon a fair hearing given to such party or his / her counsel. Any party including the State, if dissatisfied with such an order is entitled to canvas the same by way of an appeal or revision application to an appropriate forum,” the BASL said.

The BASL noted that litigants and their Attorneys-at-Law should have the confidence that judicial officers are free to decide cases on their own merits and not based on any other consideration.

In these circumstances, it is the view of the BASL that as there is a strong possibility of an impression being created, if not already created, in the minds of judicial officers and of the public, that the meeting / webinar was conducted with the aim of impressing upon judges to make particular orders in a particular manner, such an impression should be immediately addressed and if necessary be corrected, in the public interest and the interests of all those tasked with the administration of justice. (Colombo Gazette)