Judge Kanagasabapathy Sripavan, 62, was sworn in in the capital Colombo.
President Maithripala Sirisena, from the majority Sinhalese community, has sought reconciliation with Tamils after the separatist war that ended in 2009.
About 100,000 people have been killed during the conflict that erupted in the 1980s.
“Justice Sripavan was sworn in before President Sirisena,” the presidential secretariat said in a statement on Friday, AFP news agency reports.
Mr Sripavan is the first Tamil to be appointed to the top position since 1991.
The move comes two days after the president declared illegal the 2013 impeachment of former chief justice Shirani Bandaranayake.
Ms Bandaranayake had been sacked by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa over corruption claims – a move widely criticised by the international community and human rights groups.
Ms Bandaranayake, who has always denied corruption claims, returned to the post on Wednesday – only to retire a day later once her name had been cleared.
Mohan ‘Outstation’ During ‘Judicial Coup’
By ‘Colombo Telegraph, January 30, 2015
In what could be termed as yet another instance of showing raw state power, Shirani Bandaranayake was asked to “resume” duties as the Chief Justice as earlier reported by the Colombo Telegraph.
Bandaranayake is to sit for a singe day, as reported by the Colombo Telegraph, before “retiring” from the position, with Justice K. Sripavan to be appointed as the Chief Justice of the country.
De Facto CJ Mohan Pieris was outstation and was not scheduled to be sitting before any court when the events transpired today, and according to sources close to him was completely taken by surprise.
Bandaranayake was illegally impeached by the previous regime after she transferred Magistrate Aravinda Perera said to be close to Gotabaya Rajapaksa the former powerful Defence Secretary. The transfer was the catalyst of an accelerated impeachment which was condemned both locally and internationally.
She was thereafter removed from office despite the resolution presented to parliament being flawed which were pointed out by UNP MP Joseph Michael Perera and TNA MP M.A Sumanthiran during the vote for the impeachment. Serving Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake had not been removed as per proper procedure, and therefore, there was no vacancy. “Parliament had not passed an appropriate resolution – a proper address to the President seeking the removal of the Chief Justice on the basis of the findings of the Parliamentary Select Committee. What it passed was an old one which had set the impeachment process in motion.” the TNA MP said.
It was the said resolution that paved the way for her ‘resumption’ as the letter sent to Mohan Pieris refers to the said resolution calling it flawed. The letter said that accordingly the appointment of Peiris was “void ab initio”.
As such the position is that Bandaranayake was never removed or impeached from office, and Pieris was a usurper of the position.
Bandaranayake whose initial appointment to the Supreme Court was a political one and was challenged by leading lawyers Comprising the likes of S.L Gunasekara was the first female Chief Justice of the Country.
He husband, Pradeep Kariyawasam was simultaneously appointed the Chairman of the National Savings Bank in violation of any procedural norm and in clear conflict of interest.
The appointment of her husband, Pradeep Kariyawasam to the post was first questioned by Colombo Telegraph which called him to explain the grounds on which he was appointed.
Kariyawasam was thereafter at the centre of controversy over a share transfer with The Finance Company.
Pieris was also the subject of many allegations of corruption and fraud, including bribery. As the Attorney General he was seen as a cohort of the Rajapaksa regime having withdrawn many indictments against government politicians.
He was also the former Chairman of the Seylan Bank and a Director of Lanka Logistics the controversial arms procuring company formed by the Defence Secretary.