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Sri Lanka appeals court orders parliament to drop impeachment proceedings

The Court of Appeals of Sri Lanka [official website] on Monday ordered parliament to drop the impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake, quashing a guilty verdict against her. This decision further fuels the dispute [AP report] between the legislature and the judiciary, and raises international concern [AFP report] over the independence of the country's judiciary. The decision quashed a report by lawmakers last month finding the Chief Justice guilty of financial and professional misconduct, declaring her unfit to be justice. Bandaranayake has denied all of the allegations against her, claiming that she did not receive a fair hearing. Sri Lanka's Bar Association vowed to reject any replacements for the Chief Justice if she is denied a fair hearing. As a result of the Court of Appeals' decision in granting the writ sought by Chief Justice Bandaranayake, the Parliament may not lawfully continue pursuing impeachment proceedings against the Chief Justice.

Last week the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka ruled [JURIST report] that the impeachment proceedings against Bandaranayake were unlawful. The court held that the parliamentary committee does not have the authority to investigate or proceed with the impeachment of a senior judge; these tasks are left to the judiciary. Thus, by stepping into the judiciary's role, the parliament had exercised power beyond its authority, ultimately rendering the entire proceeding unlawful. The parliament had not yet commented on the ruling, but was expected to make an announcement after the debate concerning Bandaranayake's impeachment. The decision came only days after a UN independent expert expressed concern [JURIST report] about the increasing threats and attacks against judges and lawyers who fight for the independence of the judiciary.

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