Parliament proceedings cannot be challenged in Court: Counsel

Saturday, 30 July 2016 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By S.S. Selvanayagam

President’s Counsel K. Kanag Iswaran appearing for the Prime Minister yesterday (29) submitted in Supreme Court that the proceedings in Parliament cannot be challenged in any Court or place out of Parliament.

In this case, Singarasa was convicted by Sri Lankan Courts on five counts on an attack or attempted attack on Army camps in the Northern Province with a view to overthrow the lawfully-elected Government of Sri Lanka in the early 1990s. His conviction was based on a confession. However, after exhaustion of all local remedies, Singarasa made a communication to the Human Rights Committee in Geneva to obtain relief or redress. 

The Human Rights Committee conveyed its views to the parties for the release or re-trial and compensation on the basis of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 1976 Optional Protocol to which Sri Lanka has become a State party in 1980 and 1997 by way of accession. Thereafter, the Petitioner appealed to the Supreme Court by way of revision for relief or redress, but the appeal was unsuccessful.

Two rights petitions disputing the request made by the Prime Minister for a ruling from the Speaker on the implications and/or Constitutionality of impugned incidental pronouncement in the Supreme Court Judgment of the ‘Singarasa Case’ came up before the Bench comprising Justices Priyasath Dep and Anil Gooneratne.

Counsel Kanag Iswaran along with the Attorney General raised preliminary objection on the maintainability of the petitions.

Counsel Kanag Iswaran submitted that Prime Minister made the purported statement in Parliament. It is an act of the Prime Minister in Parliament. Under Special Privileges of Parliament Act, it cannot be challenged in this Court.

He cited Section 3 (Freedom of Speech and Debate) of Parliament (Powers and Privileges) Act, Part I (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) which states there shall be freedom of speech, debate and proceeding in Parliament and such freedom of speech, debate or proceedings shall not be liable to be impeached or questioned in any Court or place out of Parliament.

Deputy Solicitor General Viraj Dayaratne with Deputy Solicitor General Nerin Pulle and State Counsel Suren Gnanaraj appearing for the Attorney General and the President raising Preliminary objections on the maintainability of the petitions as the statements were made in Parliament, one cannot proceed with these petitions.

Petitioner Dharshana Weraduwage appearing for himself submitted that he is not challenging the statement made by the Prime Minister in Parliament but the President as Executive must uphold and ensure the Constitution.

The Court fixed the matter to be supported on 31 August.

Petitioner N. Dharshana Weraduwage cited Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Attorney General, naming him in the capacity as Attorney General as well as for President Maithripala Sirisena.

The Supreme Court in the Singarasa Case made a pronouncement that the Constitution of Sri Lanka and the prevailing legal regime do not provide for release or retrial of a convicted person after his conviction is confirmed by the highest Appellate Court.

Supreme Court had ruled that therefore the State does not have the legal authority to execute the decision of the Human Right Committee to release the convict or grant a retrial.