Vital provisions in 19A not included in 21A – BASL

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) said on 23 May that it is concerned that while the 21st Amendment presented to Cabinet by Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe will restore the provisions of the previous 19th Amendment to the Constitution in regard to the Constitutional Council and the Independent Commissions, there are several vital provisions which were found in the 19th Amendment which are not incorporated into the draft 21st Amendment.

Issuing a statement, the BASL said the provisions of the 19th Amendment precluded the President from assigning to himself any subjects or functions.

However, the 21st Amendment does not incorporate such a provision and as such, the President will be able to continue to retain Ministries and assign to himself any subjects and functions and take over subjects and functions of any Minister. The BASL is of the view that the 21st Amendment must include a provision amending Article 44(2) of the Constitution removing the power of the President to retain Ministries and assigning to him any subjects or functions. Such provision must be made operative as soon as the 21st Amendment is passed.

In addition, the BASL observed that the President’s powers to prorogue and dissolve Parliament are left intact, in contrast to the 19th Amendment to the Constitution where the President could dissolve Parliament only after four-and-a-half years following a Parliamentary Election. The BASL is of the view that the provisions in the 19th Amendment relating to dissolution of Parliament should be restored.

On 23 April 2022, the Bar Council approved the proposals of the BASL to restore political and economic stability in the country. In the 13-point proposal, the BASL proposed the introduction of the 21st Amendment to the Constitution by repealing the provisions of the 20th Amendment and restoring the 19th Amendment, and the re-establishment of the Constitutional Council and the Independent Commissions which existed under the 19th Amendment, while enhancing their financial independence, transparency, and accountability.