- Counsel for EC says holding election on Gazetted day not practically possible
- Says election date will depend on green light from health authorities
- Following submission of EC position, petition challenging EC Gazette withdrawn
- Hearings into petition challenging Gazette notification dissolving Parliament continues
- Counsel for SLPP argues that Gazette dissolving Parliament valid, argument to contrary is baseless
- Fourth day of hearing will resume today
EC Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya
Holding the Parliamentary Election on 20 June is practically not possible given the public health situation in the country, the Election Commission informed the Supreme Court yesterday.
The five-member Bench comprises Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya and Justices Buwaneka Aluvihare, Sisira de Abrew, Priyantha Jayawardena, and Vijith Malalgoda.
Counsel for the EC Saliya Peiris PC informed the Court of the EC’s position with regards to holding the election when hearings resumed for the third day into the Fundamental Rights petitions that have been filed challenging the Gazette issued by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dissolving Parliament as well as the Gazette issued by the Election Commission that set 20 June as the date for the General Election.
Peiris who appeared for EC Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya and its member Nalin Abeysekeara said there was no possibility of holding the election on the date which was announced in the Gazette notification by the EC until the Commission gets the green light from the health authorities. He also said the EC would need at least 10 weeks after the green light from the relevant authorities to hold the election.
He said that public officers assigned to election duty usually work for at least 16 to 17 hours a day during an election but with the ongoing curfew in two districts as well as the night curfew in all other districts, they will be unable to work more than 12 hours if the election is held under the present conditions.
He also said the EC has requested the Health Ministry to prepare an operational guideline on how to conduct the election while adhering to the necessary safety regulations, and this was in the process of being prepared.
Following the submission by Counsel for the EC, M.A. Sumanthiran PC who appeared for Petitioner Attorney-at-Law Charitha Gunaratna who had filed the FR petition challenging the EC’s Gazette notification, informed Court that they are withdrawing the petition as his client had already received the relief sought.
However, Sumanthiran who is also appearing for journalist Victor Ivan said they will proceed with the other petition challenging the Gazette notification issued by the President dissolving Parliament.
Meanwhile, the third EC member Ratnajeevan Hoole who is both a Respondent in the case as well as a Petitioner was represented in Court by counsel Asthika Devendra who told Court that his client submits that accepting the nominations on three days which were declared special public holidays is unlawful.
Additional Solicitor General Indika Demuni de Silva appearing on behalf of the Attorney General objected to Hoole being represented separately when he was also a member of the EC but Counsel Devendra submitted that as his client is a Petitioner, he can be represented separately.
Meanwhile SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam on whose behalf Wijedasa Rajapaksha PC appeared submitted to Court that the argument that a dissolution of Parliament is valid for only three months is baseless. He asked the Court to question whether had Parliament completed its full term of five years following which the election had been called, would there be any legitimacy in the call to reconvene a Parliament, the term of which had lapsed, if a similar situation had arisen.
Rajapaksha also argued that some of Petitioners have handed in nominations to contest the election which means they have already accepted that the Gazette notification dissolving Parliament is a valid one.
Romesh de Silva PC who appears for Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundera said he will make submissions today when the hearing resumes for the fourth day.