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Bar Association goes to SC against establishment of Anti-Corruption High Court

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Tuesday, 13 March 2018 00:43

By Chathuri Dissanayake

The Bar Association filed a Fundamental Rights case against the proposed amendments to the Judicature Act to establish a Permanent High Court at Bar, opposing the proposed move to remove the decision-making process of instituting criminal proceedings from the Supreme Court.

The proposed amendment transfers this power to the Attorney General and the Director General for the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC).

Although the Bar Association welcomed the move to establish the Permanent High Courts to expedite the delays in the current judicial process, its President U. R. de Silva was opposed to a few of the provisions in the amendments.

“There is a process established to decide whether the case is going to be filed as a trial-at-bar, where the decision lies with the Chief Justice. Vesting this power on the Attorney General and the DG of the Bribery Commission is not acceptable,” de Silva told Daily FT.

De Silva was also critical of the mandatory requirement to continue to hold day-to-day trials when the court system is not equipped with the infrastructure to facilitate the move.

“If the courts had all the facilities, this would be fine. But if they are not able to provide us with the court proceedings and provide other facilities then it is ok. Sometimes witnesses may also not be available either, so this mandatory requirement is a problem,” he said.Further, according to de Silva, the appeal process too has been cut short by the amendments, compared to the existing law which offers two opportunities to appeal, as the decision-making process has been removed from the Supreme Court.

The amendment also states that the “Permanent High Court at Bar to try, hear and determine the trials of the offences specified in the Sixth Schedule to the principal enactment and any other offence committed in the course of the same transaction of any such offence.” However, the Bar Association claims that the schedule lists offences targeting specific people.“There are offences listed that can be tried at a different court, so it targets people,” he said.

Further, de Silva also said that practices such as postponement of a hearing when legal counsel is engaged in another court have been prohibited in the act.  

“This is a practice followed based on the case and each unique situation. If you include it in the regulation with the word ‘shall’, then there will be no other way around the situation. It will take away the possibility of taking into consideration exceptional circumstances as well,” de Silva said, explaining why the Association is against the clause.

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