S Lankan Parliament votes to impeach Chief Justice
Colombo: Sri Lankan Parliament on Friday voted overwhelmingly to impeach the country`s first woman Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake, deepening a standoff between the judiciary and the government.
The Parliament voted 155 to 49 to dismiss Bandaranayake, 54, whose recent rulings had gone against the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse who is widely expected to approve her sacking.
"The motion (to impeach) was carried with 155 voting for and 49 against," Speaker Chamal Rajapakse said at the end of a two-day debate on a controversial Parliament Select Committee (PSC) report which found Bandaranayake guilty of misconduct on three counts.
She was accused of financial impropriety based on non declaration of assets and conflict of interest in a case involving a failed investment company.
Twenty MPs were not present during the voting which was held amid tight security. Four government MPs, including two senior ministers, were among those absent at the vote.
Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa overruled opposition protests that a vote should not be taken.
The debate took place despite a Supreme Court ruling issued early this week which said that the select committee`s proceedings were illegal.
Later, the Appeals Court also quashed the PSC`s findings.
Bandaranayake now awaits a decree from the President Rajapaksa which would formally announce her sacking.
The impeachment which sent the country into the throes of a major constitutional crisis was caused by a simmering dispute between the judiciary and the executive arms of government.
The ruling coalition took exception to several rulings by Bandranayake which they said were unfavourable to the government.
Bandaranayake has denied all charges and walked out of
the trial citing unfair nature of the investigation. The trial proceeded ex parte.
Her husband who was heading the state savings bank was also at the centre of the dispute when he was forced to resign following accusations of a dubious share market deal.
He was since being tried in the anti-graft commission.
The select committee found Bandaranayake was guilty of conflict of interest in a court case involving a failed finance company, her purchase of a property developed by the firm on behalf of her sister living in Australia and non declaration of assets.
The impeachment and its hurried process came under the focus of international governments and judicial rights groups.
Earlier this week, Rajapaksa appointed a four-member independent panel to review a parliamentary committee`s impeachment of Bandaranayake, apparently in the wake of widespread criticism.
Critics say the chief justice did not get a fair trial and the case against her is an attempt by the Rajapaksa government to stifle the judiciary`s independence.
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