President and Constitutional Council Clash over Judicial Appointments: Speaker's Letter to Chief Justice Irks President

November 20, 2023

A serious controversy has erupted between the Presidency and the Constitutional Council concerning the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. The dispute revolves around the recommendations made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe for the appointment of judges to fill vacancies in these crucial judicial positions.

President Wickremesinghe proposed the elevation of Court of Appeal President Justice Nissanka Bandula Karunaratne to the Supreme Court, filling the gap left by the retirement of Justice Buwaneka Aluwihare. Additionally, he recommended Justice Sobitha Rajakaruna as the new President of the Court of Appeal, succeeding Justice Karunaratne.

However, as of Friday, the Constitutional Council had not reached a decision on these recommendations. The controversy deepened when Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena sent a letter to Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya on November 14, seeking his views on the judges nominated, addressing aspects such as their performance, the number of judgments delivered, and any notable contributions to legal jurisprudence.

The ambiguity in the letter, as it does not specify the judges in question, has caused consternation within the Presidency. President Wickremesinghe contends that such queries should have been directed to him or the Presidential Secretariat, as he was the one making the recommendations to the Constitutional Council.

According to Sunday Times, the President is unhappy with the process, considering it a breach of protocol and arguing that evaluating judges based on the number of judgments or rulings by a Superior Court contradicts the principles of natural justice.