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Sri Lankan Parliament was dissolved according to powers vested in president: Counsel

Sri Lankan parliament. (AFP) Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

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COLOMBO, May 22, 2020, The Island. President’s Counsel Romesh de Silva told the Supreme Court, yesterday, that the President had dissolved Parliament, according to the constitutional provisions which also vested in him powers to use the Consolidated Fund for the essential services including paying for the salaries of state workers and, therefore, there was no need for approval from a ‘dead parliament,’ The Island reported.

Counsel De Silva, who appeared for President’s Secretary P. B. Jayasundara, said that the court should refuse to grant leave to proceed with the petitions challenging the election date as they had no legal basis. He said that the petitions were misconceived in law and they should not be granted leave to proceed.

He submitted to the court that the Elections Commission (EC) could not keep on postponing the general election by citing the coronavirus as the reason, and the commission should find ways and means of holding the election. He said that the EC had submitted to the court that it could hold the general elections 60-70 days after getting the green light from the health authorities. That submission made one ask oneself whether the EC was there to hold the elections or to postpone them. Many other procedures pertaining to the elections including calling for nominations, paying deposits and calling for postal votes had already been completed and the submission by the EC asking for such a long time was surprising and questionable, he said.

Postponing an election would deprive the people of their of franchise. That was a lapse by the elections commission and the President could not be held responsible for it, he said.

Counsel de Silva said that those petitions could not be maintained since they had not been filed within the stipulated one month time period and therefore they were not legal. The court should not consider such illegal petitions. The petitioners should have named all party leaders and contestants who had submitted nominations as respondents. The petitioners stated that the nominations had been called on a public holiday. The counsel asked why the had submitted their nominations knowingly that it was a public holiday. The dates had been declared a holiday because of the epidemic situation otherwise those they were not holidays, he said.

He pointed out that the President had dissolved Parliament as per the powers vested in him by the Constitution and the order to dissolve Parliament given by the president would not become void just because the date of holding elections postponed. The President had dissolved Parliament with effect from March 02 in terms of the powers vested in him by the Section 32(2) of the Constitution and that power could not be challenged in a court, PC De Silva said.

The hearing of fundamental rights petitions filed challenging the date set by the Elections Commission to hold the General Election 2020, commenced for the fourth consecutive day, yesterday (21) before a five- judge bench of the Supreme Court consisting of Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, Justices Buwaneka Aluvihare, Sisira de Abrew, Priyantha Jayawardena, and Vijith Malalgoda.

Seven parties including Attorney at Law Charitha Gunaratne, Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA), and Journalist Victor Ivan, Samagi Jana Balawegaya filed Fundamental Rights petitions, challenging the election date set by the Elections Commission.

The Attorney General, on behalf of the President, Chairman of the Election Commission Mahinda Deshapriya, and Members of the Commission N. J. Abeysekara and Ratnajeevan Hoole have been named as respondents.

Mandatory provisions have been provided by the Constitution to fix a date for the parliamentary election and convene the new Parliament not later than 3 months from the dissolution of Parliament, the petitioners have argued.

M.A. Sumanthiran PC with Counsel Ermiza Tegal appeared for Charitha Gunaratne. Senior Counsel Viran Corea with Counsel Bhavani Fonseka and Luwie Ganeshathasan appeared for CPA and Dr. P. Saravanamuttu. President’s Counsel Geoffrey Alagaratnam, Pulasthi Hewamana, Lasantha Garusinghe and Anurangi Singh instructed by Ishara Gunewardane appeared for petitioner S.C.C. Elankovan.

Additional Solicitor General Indika Demuni de Silva appeared for the Attorney General. Romesh de Silva, PC appeared for respondent Dr. P.B. Jayasundera who is the Secretary to the President. Ashtika Theivendra appeared for S. Ratnajeevan Hoole. Counsel V. K. Choksy appeared for the Election Commission.

Sanjeeeva Jayawardena, PC appeared for intervenient petitioner Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera. Gamini Marapana PC with Navin Marapana PC, Counsel Kaushalya Molligoda and Uchitha Wickremesinghe appeared for Ven. Attapatukande Ananda Thera, an intervention party. Senior Counsel Kanishka Witharana appeared for intervenient petitioner Premanath C. Dolawatta.

The five-judge-bench fixed further hearing for today (22)

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