Secretary to President submits current method to Supreme Court | Daily News


Petition on President’s Counsel appointments :

Secretary to President submits current method to Supreme Court

The Secretary to the President has informed the Supreme Court that the appointment of a President’s Counsel would not be made without consulting the ‘recognised informative persons’.

Solicitor General Dilrukshi Dias Wickremasinghe, appearing for the President’s Secretary Udaya Seneviratne, informed the Supreme Court, yesterday, that second respondent Secretary to the President had submitted a letter stating that no appointments would be made without consulting the ‘recognised informative persons’.

The case is on a Fundamental Rights petition that had been filed seeking an order directing the authorities to formulate a criteria and procedure which should be followed during the appointment of President’s Counsel.

The two-judge Supreme Court bench comprising Justices L.T.B. Dehideniya and S.Thurairajah fixed the petition for support on August 9. This petition has been filed by Attorney-at-Law Upul Kumarapperuma naming Attorney General, the Secretary to the President Udaya Seneviratne, BASL President Kalinga Indatissa and BASL Secretary Kaushalya Navaratna as respondents.

The petitioner states that the appointment process for President’s Counsel should be carried out and be based on consistent and discernible criteria. The Petitioner is invoking the jurisdiction vested in Supreme Court under and in terms of Articles 17 and 126 of the Constitution to prevent an ‘imminent infringement of his fundamental rights’, through the prospective appointment of President’s Counsel by the President under and in terms of Article 33(2)(e) of the Constitution of the Republic. The Petitioner states that for a considerable period of time, the members of the Bar and more specifically the Bar Association of Sri Lanka has endeavored to establish a guiding criteria and or guidelines to be followed by the President of the Republic so that the appointment of President’s Counsel and the conferment of ‘Silk’ is carried out on a transparent and objective criteria.

In that regard, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka in or about April 2016, has forwarded to the President a proposed criterion to be followed in the appointment of President’s Counsel. The petitioner states that in comparable Commonwealth jurisdictions, the appointment of eminent Queens Counsel (In the case of England and Wales), Senior Counsels (in the case of Australia), Senior Advocates (in the case of India) and Senior Counsel (in the case of Singapore), are all carried out using a systematic appointment criteria notwithstanding that the appointing authority in the said different jurisdictions may be the Chief Justice or the Executive.

In all the said jurisdictions the appointment or the selection process is done by a selection panel which, in most instances, includes the Chief Justice, the Attorney General and a representative of the Bar. The Petitioner reiterates that since the year 2017, the President has appointed a total of 75 President’s Counsel from the private bar on three successive occasions.

The Petitioner states that despite the said appointments being made by the President in the year 2017, 2018 and 2019, no reasonable notice or intimation had been given to the members of the Bar as to when applications should be made for ‘silk’ status and/or no specific criteria had been formulated which would enable a member of the Bar to assess for herself whether he is qualified to become a ‘Silk’ and then make an application to the relevant authorities seeking such position, other than the generic criteria as set out in Article 33(cc) of the Constitution.

The Petitioner states that several appointees who have not completed at least 25 years of active practice in the Bar, are not in active practice or do not have an extensive practice in the Bar or contributed in any way to the development of the legal profession have been appointed as the President’s Counsel.

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