By S.S. Selvanayagam
The Supreme Court yesterday deferred for 6 September the hearing of the special determination on the Bill titled ‘The Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution’.
The bench comprised Chief Justice Priyasath Dep, justices Anil Gooneratne and Vijith K. Malalgoda. Eight petitions have so far been filed seeking the special determination of the Supreme Court.
Prof. G.L. Peiris, Udaya Gammanpila, PAFFREL, MEP, the Centre for Policy Alternatives, Dullas Alahaperuma MP, Ranga Dayananda and Renuka Dushyantha Perera have filed petitions.
Romesh de Silva PC with Sugath Caldera and Niran Anketell appeared for Peiris. Faisz Musthapha PC appeared for the intervenient petitioner. Manohara de Silva PC appeared for Gammanpila. Uditha Egalahewa PC appeared for one petitioner. Viran Corea, with Luwie Gnanathas instructed by Moahan Balendra, appeared for the Centre for Policy Alternatives. Attorney General Jayantha Jayasuriya, with Additional Solicitor General Indika Demuni de Silva, Deputy Solicitors General Nerin Pulle and Viveka Siriwardena, Senior State Counsel Yuresha de Silva and State Counsel Suren Gnanaraj, appeared for the Attorney General.
The Centre for Policy Alternatives in its petition states that the Bill was published as a supplement to Part II of the Gazette on 28 July 2017 and the gazette was only issued on 3 August 2017 and placed on the Order Paper of Parliament on 23 August 2017.
It states the Bill seeks to amend the Constitution and the provisions of the Bill if enacted would give Parliament the power to determine the date (specified date) on which all the Provincial Councils shall stand dissolved and to extend up to the specified date, the terms of office of any Provincial Council ending prior to such specified date and to end the specified date, the term of office of any Provincial Council which continues beyond such a specified date.
In the event any Provincial Council is to be dissolved by the Governor of the province in the terms of Article 154B (8)(c) or is to be dissolved by any other reason specified in any law, the powers of such Provincial Council will be exercised by the Parliament until the specified date and the provisions of Articles 154L and 154M shall, mutatis mutandis (with the necessary changes having been made) apply in relation to the exercise of powers of the Provincial Council, it bemoans.
It alleges the Bill negatively impacts the franchise of the people where a Provincial Council’s five-year term ends prior to the specified date by depriving the citizens residing within that province the opportunity to vote and constitute a Provincial Council until the said specified date: (b) where a Provincial Council’s five-year term only ends after the specified date by curtailing the mandate given by citizens residing within that province to such Provincial Council without the consent of the majority of members of such Provincial Council and (c) by transferring to Parliament the power vested with the members of a Provincial Council to decide when such a Provincial Council stands dissolved.
The institutions, having being created and cloaked with ‘powers of government’, the Government cannot now abridge or denude the sovereignty of citizens to elect individuals to animate the institution without first obtaining the consent of the people at a referendum, it contends.