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Sri Lanka president signs order removing chief justice from office

Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Sunday signed an order to remove Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake [official profile] from office for alleged corruption and bribery. The president's action comes just two days after the Sri Lankan Parliament [official website] voted [JURIST report] with an overwhelming majority to impeach the chief justice and drafted an official motion [materials] urging the president to remove the Chief Justice. The president said in his order that he was in agreement with the parliament's request for Bandaranayake's removal, despite a recent Supreme Court ruling [JURIST report] that said impeachment would be illegal because parliament does not have the authority to investigate or impeach a senior judge. The removal order was delivered to Bandaranayake's residence on Sunday morning.

The parliament's investigation into the chief justice has been the center of controversy in Sri Lanka and has been criticized by rights groups. Earlier this month, the UN expressed concern [JURIST report] over the chief justice's impeachment proceedings, saying they were "extremely politicized and characterized by lack of transparency, lack of clarity in the proceedings, as well as lack of respect for the fundamental guarantees of due process and fair trial." In December, Bandaranayake appealed a guilty verdict [JURIST reports] made against her earlier that month by a parliamentary committee on three charges of misconduct. The charges she was found guilty of dealt with conflict of interest, claiming of assets for tax assessment purposes and bias in handling a case against her husband.

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