[JURIST] The Sri Lankan government on Wednesday said that its new president has reinstated former chief justice Shirani Bandaranayake [JURIST news archive], calling the impeachment a procedural error. Both her removal and the installation of her successor, according to the office of President Maithripala Sirisena [official website], are now “null and void according to the law.” Bandaranayake was impeached in 2013 and faced corruption charges brought by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, which she continually denied. The removal procedure was criticized [BBC report] by the UN’s Human Rights Council, who called it an assault on judicial independence. Her successor, former attorney-general Mohan Peiris, has been let go. Bandaranayake will resume her former role for only one day [AP report], after which she will retire and a new chief justice will be appointed. Her aim, the Bar Association said, was to clear her name.
In addition to becoming Sri Lanka’s first female chief justice, Bandaranayake also made national history as the first judge to be impeached. In September 2013 Sri Lanka prosecutors brought criminal corruption charges [JURIST report] against the former chief justice, accusing her of failing to disclose empty bank accounts during a required declaration of assets while she was in office. Rajapaksa signed the order to remove Bandaranayake from office in January 2013 after the Sri Lankan parliament voted in an overwhelming majority to impeach the chief justice [JURIST reports]. Earlier that 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.” One month prior Bandaranayake appealed a guilty verdict [JURIST reports] reached earlier that month by a parliamentary committee on three charges of misconduct. The charges on which she was found guilty dealt with conflict of interest, claiming of assets for tax assessment purposes and bias in handling a case against her husband. They have been widely condemned as an act of political revenge against Bandaranayake, as they followed legal rulings not favorable to Rajapaksa’s government.