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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 80

FR Case: Today, Counsels for the intervening Petitioners Will Continue Their Submissions

Colombo, 29 May, (Asiantribune.com):

President’s Counsel Gamini Marapana appearing on behalf of Ven. Attapattukande Ananda Thero, the Adhikarana Sanghanayake thero of the Malwathu Chapter yesterday, 28th May, submitted that a political decision by the president to dissolve parliament is not justiciable, and added that it is not just and equitable to grant the relief sought by the petitioners.

He stated that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s decision to dissolve Parliament was a political decision made in his capacity as the Head of State and government under the provisions of the Constitution, and, therefore, the judiciary had no powers to intervene in and order that the executive decision be reversed, the Supreme Court was told yesterday.

President’s Counsel Gamini Marapana said so when further consideration of the fundamental rights petitions, challenging the date set by the Elections Commission (EC) to hold the general election 2020, was resumed for the eighth day yesterday (28).

President’s Counsel Marapana, pointed out that it was the EC that had violated the fundamental rights of the people by not allowing them to exercise their franchise by postponing the general election. The same EC had postponed holding elections to the provincial councils for more than two years and now it had postponed a general election. That amounted to depriving the people of their franchise, Marapana said.

The petitions are being heard yesterday, for the eight consecutive day, before a five- judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya and Justices Buwaneka Aluwihare, Sisira de Abrew, Priyantha Jayawardena, and Vijith Malalgoda.

Marapana said the people were disturbed by the reports about differences among the members of the EC, which was considered an independent commission.

The President’s Counsel submitted that the EC was permitted to postpone an election under an unavoidable circumstance but postponing an election for a long period of time was unjust.

Seven parties including Attorney-at-Law Charitha Gunaratne, the Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA), and Victor Ivan and the ‘Samagi Jana Balawegaya’ have filed fundamental rights petitions, challenging the gazette issued declaring June 20 as the date of the general election 2020 and the gazette notification issued by the President dissolving the Parliament.

The Attorney General appeared on behalf of the President.

Chairman of the EC Mahinda Deshapriya, and members Nalin Abeysekara and Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole have been named as respondents to the petitions.

Mandatory provisions have been provided by the Constitution to fix a date for the parliamentary election and convene the new Parliament not later than three months from the dissolution of Parliament, the petitioners have argued.

The President published a Gazette notification on March 02, dissolving then-Parliament and the General Election was subsequently declared to be held on April 25. However, the EC later decided to postpone the poll to June 20 due to the local outbreak of COVID-19 virus, they had pointed out.

The EC setting June 20 as the new date for the poll is against the provisions of the Constitution, they argued.

The petitioners have noted that the failure to convene the new Parliament within three months of the dissolution of the previous Parliament, made the Gazette issued by the President invalid.

The petitioners say that a free and fair election cannot be held as the threat of COVID-19 virus is yet to be eliminated, adding that it is a violation of people’s right to vote freely.

President’s Counsel Sanjeewa Jayawardena said that it would be disastrous if leave to proceed is granted to the petitioners challenging the president’s proclamation dissolving parliament.

He was appearing for Ven. Muruththetuwe Ananda Thero Thero, an intervening petitioner in the Fundamental Rights applications being considered before a five-judge Supreme Court bench.

President’s Counsel Sanjeewa Jayawardena submitted that the phrase “public services” is included in both Article 150 (2) of the constitution which grants parliament authority to withdraw sums from the consolidated fund, as well as Article 150 (3) which grants the president authority to withdraw funds when parliament stands dissolved.

He cited the appropriation bills for the years 2017, 2018 and the vote on account passed in 2019 and pointed out that capital expenditure, recurrent expenditure and even raising of debt are all included in these documents.

He, therefore, submitted that these powers of parliament over public finances are transferred to the president during the interim period that the parliament stands dissolved.

He went on to state “it is ludicrous to suggest that the president cannot raise loans.”

President’s Counsel Kushan de Alwis, appearing for intervening petitioner Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera, said the petitioners were challenging the date fixed for the general election as June 20 due personal motives and not for the sake of law, democracy or rights of the people.

He submitted that the petitioners have come before court for collateral purposes, and are seeking to stutter the country.

He pointed out that initially the Elections commission told court that the elections could be held 70 days after health authorities give a green light, but now they have changed this stance and announced that the election process will resume after the Supreme Court gives their determination on this matter.

He submitted that the petitioners seem to have the tacit support of the elections commission.

President’s Counsel Uditha Egalahewa said there was one characteristic common to all parliaments the world over; it was that once dissolved, their terms came to an end.

Egalahewa, counsel for Human Rights Activist J Thiagarajah, said the Gazette Notification issued by the President, on March 2, dissolving the Parliament was legal. Although the petitioners called for the reconvening of Parliament, there was no constitutional provision that allowed such an action.

The petitions will be taken up for consideration to grant leave proceed tomorrow at 10 a.m.

Counsel for the intervening petitioners will continue to make submissions tomorrow.

Stay Safe, Stay at Home, Stay Informed, But Don't Forget to Wash Your Hands.

- Asian Tribune -

  FR Case:  Today, Counsels for the intervening  Petitioners Will Continue Their  Submissions
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