Opposition PSC members defiant

Saturday, 5 January 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • TNA, DNA reject D. Speaker’s threats about Court appearance
  • Vijitha Herath says only President is immune for legal proceedings
  • MPs from both parties to appear before Court again on Monday
  • Lawyers say Parliamentary Privilege Act only governs evidence before Court
  • Sumanthiran says according to Article 125 Supreme Court ruling is law, despite Govt. interpretations

By Dharisha Bastians

The crisis between the Judiciary and the Legislature deepened yesterday, with TNA and DNA MPs vowing to answer Court notice again next week despite Deputy Speaker Chandimal Weerakody’s claim on Thursday that action could be taken against MPs who appeared before the Court of Appeal with reference to the writ application filed by Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake.

All 11 members of the Parliamentary Select Committee that probed the impeachment motion against Bandaranayake were issued notice by the Court of Appeal after the Chief Justice filed a writ application seeking to quash the findings of the PSC.

In light of the Supreme Court ruling that the PSC could not exercise judicial power, the Court of Appeal issued notice on the respondents again, to appear before the Court on 7 January.

The UNP leadership has taken the position that its MPs on the PSC would not appear in court, while the Government MPs have also rejected the notice.

Attorney-at-Law for TNA MP R. Sampanthan, one of the four Opposition members of the Parliamentary Select Committee, M.A. Sumanthiran told the Daily FT that the Deputy Speaker appeared to be making a reference to Section 17 of the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act that stipulates that any stenographer, shorthand writer, clerk or MP giving evidence before a Court about Parliamentary proceedings must obtain the permission of the Speaker.

“In this case it is wholly irrelevant because there is no evidence being given. When I marked appearance for Sampanthan in Court on Thursday I stated that we were appearing in deference to notice issued by the Court and that we would not be making any pleadings but both MPs appearing would assist the proceedings through counsel,” Sumanthiran said. He added that Attorney-at-Law J.C. Weliamuna appearing for DNA MP Vijitha Herath had informed the Court of the same.

According to Attorney Sumanthiran, the Deputy Speaker had asserted yesterday that the Speaker must be informed even before MPs submit an affidavit to Court.

Meanwhile, DNA MP and PSC member Vijitha Herath said that he would be appearing before the Court of Appeal on Monday (7) when the Chief Justice’s writ application is taken up for hearing.

“If the Government seeks to use its pseudo majority in Parliament to harass and take action against us, we are ready to face the consequences of that. As far as we are concerned, we abided by the law of the land,” Herath told the Daily FT.

Herath said that the only person who has immunity from legal proceedings is the Executive President, whereas every other citizen must adhere to Court notice and orders. “We will be in Court again on Monday,” the DNA MP asserted.

Responding to statements by the Deputy Speaker and other Government members who provided different interpretations to Article 107 following the Supreme Court ruling, Sumanthiran said that the legal position on the determination by the country’s highest court is very clear.

According to the lawyer and TNA MP, the Supreme Court made its ruling based on Article 125 of the Constitution, which vests with the Supreme Court, the sole and exclusive power to interpret the Constitution.

“The Constitution gives no one else that power – not the Parliament, not even any other Court,” Sumanthiran said, adding that Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa in a ruling on 9 October 2012 said that only the Supreme Court had the right to interpret the Constitution and said everyone must respect the Court’s decisions.

“We don’t know how the Government is going to react to this ruling, but there is no ambiguity about it. The Supreme Court ruling is the law. And if they choose to ignore or violate it, it is a violation of law,” he explained.