By S.S. Selvanayagam
The Supreme Court yesterday (18) deferred for 30 November the Fundamental Rights petition seeking to hold the local government elections in the Districts of Galle and Matara.
The Bench comprised Chief Justice K. Sripavan and Justice Anil Gooneratne.
The Supreme Court on 2 November directed the Minister for Local Government and Provincial Councils who had earlier been released from the proceedings as Respondent to file objection within two weeks.
The Court on 29 April had granted leave to proceed with the petition which seeks an order from the Court to direct the Elections Commission to take all necessary steps to hold these elections.
Petitioners are Chairmen and Deputy Chairmen of United People Freedom Alliance for Weligama Urban Council and Dikwella, Thawalama, Neluwa, Weligama, Thihagoda, Kirinda, Kotapola, Mulatiyana, Pasgoda, Devinuwara, Kamburupitiya, Athuraliya, Malimbada, Akuressa, Hakmana, Matara and Pitabeddara Pradeshiya Sabhas. They cited Elections Commission, its Chairman Mahinda Deshpriya, its Members, Local Government and Provincial Councils Minister Faiszer Musthapha, Attorney General and others as Respondents.
They state that prior to their terms of office expiring on 1 April 2015, the Minister extended the terms of office of three Municipal Councils, 30 Urban Councils and 201 Pradeshiya Sabhas.
They also state that no further extensions were made in respect of the said local authorities and the terms of office have expired from 15 May 2015.
They contend there is no provision in law for the Secretaries to have, exercise, perform and discharge rights, privileges, powers, duties and functions of the Council and/or Sabha and/or the Chairman and/or Pradeshiya Sabha has expired according to law and maintain that the Elections Commission is duty bound to hold the election before the expiry of the said term.
They lament the said secretaries being public servants are not as receptive as the people’s representatives.
They state that the Elections Commission’s failure to take all necessary steps to hold elections for local authorities as required by law is violative of their fundamental rights to equality is gross violation of the sovereignty vested in the people which include the franchise.
Manohara de Silva PC with Udaya Gammanpila appeared for the Petitioners. Additional solicitor General Sanjay Rajaratnam with State Counsel Surekha Ahmad appeared for the Elections Commissioner and the Attorney General. J.C. Weliamuna appeared for some of the Intervenient Petitioners.