That, he said and the “increasing depravity of human values and practices has had its impact on the trust that people in a country may place in the judicial system itself.”
The Chief Justice was speaking at the ceremonial sitting, at which he took over as the head of the Judiciary in Sri Lanka, in Colombo yesterday (22).
Perera also thanked President Maithripala Sirisena for breaking with recent practice and appointing a career Judge as the Chief Justice as that would give other career judges encouragement to aspire to be at the apex of the system.
Court proceedings, he said, ought not to be permitted to degenerate into a weapon of harassment and persecution, highlighting that measures should be taken to establish a mechanism to prevent the increasing trend of frivolous lawsuits.
The new Chief Justice, whilst noting a growing tendency among certain practicing lawyers, by way of an outcry to publicly malign the reputation of judicial officers, whenever they failed to secure their desired outcomes through a judgment given, added that whatever complaints or grievances one, including members of the bar may have, they must first be brought to the notice of the Judicial Services Commission or to the attention of the Chief Justice, in the case of the latter group, through the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.
Addressing criticism levelled at Judges, he requested the public to take heed that Judges themselves are mere mortals and are not infallible, adding however that they should be expected to operate with the highest of diligence, integrity and commitment to justice.
Perera further explained that, “To criticize a judgment fairly or even fiercely is no crime. When such criticism is fair, reasonable and objective and is directed to a judgment or a public act of a Judge on duty, it would not constitute contempt. Given that Judges are not perfect, such criticism must be encouraged and is a necessary right to be availed when needed. Moreover, the right to freedom of speech and expression is vital for all citizens to exercise and must be protected. However, if any criticism directed at judicial institutions transgresses all limits of decency and fairness or displays a total lack of objectivity or when there is a deliberate attempt to undermine the dignity of the Courts, then it amounts to contempt. Any criticism of the judiciary must arise from the highest motives and should not be coloured by any partisan spirit and tactics.”
Members of the minor judiciary, he urged, should act with judicial restraint and discipline, required for the orderly administration of justice.
On the subject of corruption and doubts about the personal and professional integrity of officers functioning in the administration of justice, he noted that corruption, particularly in high places must be put down with a heavy hand and affirmed that the judicial system would remain strongly opposed to corruption and deeply committed to eradicating it and that he as the CJ was committed to bear the responsibility of taking action to ensure the justice system remains unpolluted.