Sri Lanka moves to impeach first woman Chief Justice

The Sri Lankan government set in motion process to impeach the country`s first woman Chief Justice charging her with "improper conduct".

Colombo: The Sri Lankan government on Thursday set in motion process to impeach the country`s first woman Chief Justice charging her with "improper conduct" and "over-stepping" limits in an escalating conflict between the Judiciary and the Executive.

"The impeachment motion with the required number of signatures of lawmakers was handed over to the Speaker of the Parliament," government spokesman and minister Keheliya Rambukwella told reporters.

He declined to specify the charges against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake. But, sources said the motion charged her with improper behaviour and six other charges.

"It is now up to the Speaker to examine the validity of the charges and carry out further action," Rambukwella said. He later told a press conference that the "government believes that the judiciary is over stepping its authority”.

The sources said Arundika Fernando, an MP from the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), handed over the motion on behalf of the government parliamentary group.

The move comes in the wake of opposition charges that the Mahinda Rajapaksa government, which commands overwhelmingly majority in Parliament, was indulging in political vendetta against rivals.

According to the Constitution, an impeachment motion requires support of at least 75 of the 225 members in the Assembly.

Bandaranayake, 54, was appointed the country`s first woman chief justice last year and has another 11 years in office unless removed by the impeachment motion.

Analysts said the procedure of impeachment would be a long drawn out affairs as the next step would be for the speaker of Parliament to name a select committee to inquire into accusations against Bandaranayake.

Parliament would vote the report submitted by the select committee.

The chief justice and the executive arm of the state were embroiled in a conflict since mid September.

The judiciary claimed that the executive was interfering in the independence of the judiciary.

A Supreme Court ruling by a bench headed by Bandaranayake ruled against the government on a key financial bill while the judge secretary to the Judicial Service Commission came to be physically assaulted by an unknown group early last month.

Last week Bandaranayake`s husband Pradeep Kariyawasam was indicted by the Bribery and Corruption Commission over a share transaction involving the state savings bank.

Kariyawasam, a marketing professional, was accused of supervising a transaction which would have caused the state a loss of 391 million rupees. He has moved a court against his dismissal. The case is to be heard on February 28 next year.