Judges not immune to scrutiny
‘No evidence of phone tapping’:
Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) President Geoffrey Alagaratnam
has said that the judiciary cannot be immune from public scrutiny and
wants the news media to criticise judges and court rulings “in a proper
manner”. At the same time the BASL head refused to further probe recent
complaints that the police were eavesdropping on a judge’s telephone
In an interview with the Sunday Observer, the BASL President was
questioned about remarks he had earlier made criticising some sections
of the news media for their allegations against certain judges.
Mr. Alagaratnam said that some sections of the news media had
targeted certain judges and made accusations in a way that the general
public could begin to lose confidence in the judiciary as whole. He
pointed out that while judges could give wrong judgements, they should
be questioned on points of law rather than be accused of taking bribes
and ruling in favour of the influencing party.
“I don’t think judges should be immune from public scrutiny. Judges
should be criticized in the proper manner; especially if they have
written a judgment that is unworthy. But to say a judge took a bribe or
the judge was influenced, if that is true there are mechanisms to refer
“You can complain to the chief justice. Or you can complain to the
police or the CID. And then CID would seek permission of the chief
justice and initiate investigations to see whether such allegations are
true or otherwise.
“But my problem is that it’s not a question of merely attacking one
judge. I am not saying that all judges are honest. But, the overall
effect when you go on attacking a couple of judges is that the public
perception is that the entire Judiciary is bad and corrupt. You then
lose faith in the whole judicial system. And isn’t that bad for
“People will say, what’s the big idea of going to courts? as they too
are corrupt. So there might be a hasty generalization. Your target maybe
one judge or two judges but it has an effect on the judiciary as a
whole. Anyone can ciriticise a judgment or say it’s strange or faulty
due to maybe overwhelming evidence, but to say a judge took a bribe or
was influenced is not the responsible way of criticizing,” the BASL
The BASL President also denied that the Association should probe a
recent claim by a lawyer that a certain judge’s telephone was being
tapped by the security authorities.
“We can’t go on only on that basis as it’s only hearsay. If that was
the case why hasn’t the judge complained to the Chief Justice? Or in the
alternative, why didn’t the judge with the permissions of the chief
Justice report it to the CID?
“It’s not that I am disbelieving these statements but we are in a
responsible profession. No firsthand information has been received to
act on it. In my role as the president of the Bar Association I cannot
be taking on an investigative role. If we have sufficient evidence we
can go ahead but not merely fishing for it,” Mr. Alagaratnam said.
“I am mindful that, even in the media, there are undercurrents of
people who have their own agendas and personal reasons. I am not trying
to align myself with the ulterior motive of some people who are trying
to criticize the media or trying to criticize the state.
“They are saying that the President or the Prime Minister is behind
the CID trying to harass this judge because he has given a dissenting
judgment. That’s not what I am saying. What I am saying is that looking
at it in a manner of principle. Because there are various, perhaps
hidden agendas of various people and I don’t want to be a party to