39 Petitions Before SC
By Kamal Weeraratna
Twenty-one (21) Special Determination petitions were filed yesterday (28) in the Supreme Court, challenging the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution, bringing the total number of petitions filed against the Bill thus far to 39.
Also, 36 intervenient petitions, to make submissions opposed to the 39 Special Determination petitions, were also filed with the apex Court yesterday.
The 39 Special Determination petitions are to be perused by a five-Judge Bench comprising Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya and Justices Buwaneka Aluwihare, Sisira de Abrew, Priyantha Jayawardena and Vijith Kumara Malalgoda today (29). Acceptance of the petitions had concluded by 4 p.m. yesterday, explained the Senior Registrar of the Supreme Court, Pradeep Mahamuthugala.
Election Commission Member Professor Ratnajeevan Hoole, United National Party General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, former Parliamentarian Mangala Samaraweera, MP Rauff Hakeem, UNP Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardene, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Mayantha Dissanayake, the Bar
Association of Sri Lanka President Kalinga Indatissa PC, Sirilaka Janatha Peramuna Attorney-at-Law P. Liyanaarachchi, the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Audit Services Commission E.A.D. Prasad Prasanna Pushpakumara and the Sri Lanka Press Institute, were among those who had filed the Special Determination petitions yesterday.
The rest of the petitions were filed by Arif Samsudeeen, Ibrahim Lebbe, Adam Lebbe Thuan, Eric Senaratne Balasuriya, D.T. Pathmasiri, Dr. Visakesa Chandrasekaran, M.K. Jayatissa, A.S. Chulasinghe de Soyza, Bennett Samarasiri Jayawardena, P.D.S. Premasiri Gunathileka and S.K.S.H.K. Sooriyarachchi.
Previously, 12 petitions in this connection had been filed with the Apex Court on 24 September and it had increased up to 18, 24 hours later.
The number of Special Determination petitions increased to 39 with the 21 that were submitted yesterday.
Attorney General Dappula de Livera has been named as the sole respondent in these petitions.
The petitioners claim that certain provisions of the proposed Bill of the 20th Amendment severely violate the Articles of the country’s 1978 Constitution.
They call for a two-thirds majority of the Parliament and a public referendum to pass the controversial Bill.
The Cabinet of Ministers had approved the 20th Amendment Bill to the Constitution on 2 September and the Extraordinary Gazette Notification was published 24 hours later. The Bill of the 20th Amendment was tabled in Parliament on 22 September, amidst a cacophony of protests from the SJB-led Opposition.
The petitioners have alleged that certain clauses of the proposed Bill flout a number of Fundamental Rights (FR) and other provisions assured by the current Constitution. The petitioners, through each petition, have stated that the mooted Bill contains provisions that are seriously prejudicial to the public such as the removal of the provisions allowing for the filing of FR petitions against the President, drastically curtailing the powers vested with the EC to file legal action against the violation of directives issued by the Commission, the preventing of the Presidential Secretariat, the Prime Minister’s Office and State institutions from being audited and removing the restrictions placed preventing a person with dual citizenship from contesting future General Elections or Presidential Polls.
The petitioners have further noted that the proposed Bill seeks to reintroduce the provisions allowing the submission of emergency Bills, which were invalidated by the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. They have also informed the Apex Court that through the proposed Amendment, the Government has deleted the power vested with the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption to probe an incident of bribery or corruption sans a prior complaint and that it also removes the qualifications needed to be appointed as the Auditor General.
The 39 petitioners have also stressed that the proposed Bill flouts the basic rights ensured by the Constitution, as well as other Articles of the Constitution and therefore they have moved the SC to deliver a verdict declaring that the said Bill will require a two-thirds majority in the House and a public referendum, ahead of its ratification.