President’s Counsels ten a penny nowadays

President’s Counsels ten a penny nowadays

18 April 2019 11:01 am

According to the widely accepted tradition in Sri Lanka’s legal system, lawyers who have contributed greatly to the improvement of the law are appointed as President’s Counsels. But, has it changed?

The usual criteria used to nominate and appoint President’s Counsels include, possessing over 20 years of active experience in the field and being attorneys who have engaged in at least five recorded cases in the Sri Lanka Law Reports (SLR) and New Law Reports (NLR). These law reports, which are considered extremely important in Sri Lanka’s law, include only the cases heard in the Appellate Court. Therefore, attorneys who have served in the Appellate Court stand a chance to be appointed as President’s Counsels.

However, just like everything becomes cheaper during the New Year festive season, a list of many new President’s Counsels has been unveiled. The newly appointed President’s Counsels are:

  1. Sampath Mendis
  2. Navin Marapana
  3. Shanaka De Silva
  4. Piyasena Deeratne
  5. Jayasinghe
  6. Nalinda Indatissa
  7. V.K. Choksi
  8. Nalin Dissanayake
  9. Mayura Gunawansa
  10. Wasantha Gajanayake
  11. Ajantha Rudrigo
  12. Farmer Kasim
  13. Jagath Wickramanayake
  14. Sumith Senanayake
  15. Sivali Amithirigala
  16. Kapila Manamperi
  17. Saliya Mohotti
  18. Vincent Perera
  19. Sanath Weeraratne
  20. A.A.M. Illiyas
  21. Swarna Perera

It is obvious at a glance that certain attorneys in the above list, who have never served in the Appellate Court but in primary courts such as Magistrate and Labor Courts, have had their names included in the list, probably using their political connections.

This is not something that happened only this year; in fact, this is applicable to majority of recently appointed President’s Counsels. Once an attorney becomes a President’s Counsel, his/her professional value increases, and proportionally, their charges increase. The real question is, how can the country’s law benefit from appointing these types of ineligible attorneys to high-ranking positions? People’s trust in the country’s law might decline further.

The practice of appointing lawyers who serve in primary courts as President’s Counsels goes back to the era of Sri Lanka’s first Executive President, J.R. Jayawardena. He preferred to bestow the President’s Counsel (PC) title to his followers, and there are many examples to prove it.

So, in this context, it would not be a reason to be surprised if certain lawyers, who have done nothing for the advancement of the country’s law, begin to introduce themselves as “Attorney and Notary Public, Commissioner of Oaths, Justice of Peace, Unofficial Magistrate and President’s Counsel.”