Former Chief Justice Sarath Silva may have openly violated constitution by presenting himself as legal counsel for ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa who was questioned by police in connection with the abduction of journalist Keith Noyahr.
Official sources noted that the police Criminal Investigation Department (CID informed the Mount Lavinia Magistrate that Silva was present as part of the legal team of Rajapaksa when he was questioned at his Wijerama Mawatha home on August 17.
Article 110 (3) expressly prohibits retired judges of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal from engaging in any form of legal practice. Silva is said to be in breach of this provision when he was present and interjected during Rajapaksa’s questioning.
“No person who has held office as a permanent Judge of the Supreme Court or of the Court of Appeal may appear, plead, act or practise in any court, tribunal or institution as an Attorney-at-law at any time without the written consent of the President,” the constitutional provision says.
The Sinhala text of the provision says a retired judge from the superior courts cannot practice as a lawyer in court or for any organization or engage in the profession.
The CID was recording a statement from the former president as part of an ongoing case before the Mount Lavinia magistrate’s court.
There is no punitive action specified in the constitution, but it leaves the door open for a petition to the Chief Justice to decide on a course of action.
The constitutional provision is considered by retired superior court judges to mean that they shall not engage in any form of private practice.
Police said they were confident that Silva, the controversial ex-chief justice who retired in 2009, had not obtained written consent from President Maithripala Sirisena to practice law.
Any action against Silva for breaching Article 110 (3) could be unprecedented in Sri Lanka. No previous superior court judge had dabbled in legal practice after retirement.
In Silva’s case, he has taken to a political platform and once asked for forgiveness from the people for giving politically-motivated judgements when he was head of the judiciary.
Rajapakse had obtained legal advice during his questioning by the CID from the following: Ali Sabry, Jayantha Weerasinghe, P. Ganesh, G. L. Peiris and Sarath Silva, according to court records. Former president’s security officer was also there.
The CID officers had reportedly stopped professor Peiris intervening as he had no standing in the case. Although he is a professor of law, Peiris has no license to practice law.
In the case of Sarath Silva, out of respect for the previous office he held, the CID did not stop him, but reported the matter to the Mount Lavinia magistrate.
During an otherwise cordial meeting, the former president was seen restraining Silva. One of the lawyers present left the room half way through the interview.
Official sources say further action against Sarath Silva is awaited.
The former president was questioned for about three hours in connection with the May 22, 2008 abduction and torture of Nation journalist Keith Noyahr.