By Saman Indrajith
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya yesterday informed Parliament that the Supreme Court had determined that the Value Added Tax (Amendment) bill was unacceptable as it had failed to adhere to due process a financial bill should follow.
Making a special announcement the Speaker said: “The Court has determined that the provisions contained in Article 152 of the Constitution and Standing Order 133 are imperative in character and the failure to follow them render the subsequent proceedings nullity.
“Since the due process had not been compiled with in terms of Article 78(2) and 152 in the Constitution before the bill was introduced in Parliament, the Supreme Court has made in terms of Articles 120 and 121 read with Article 123 and 152 of the Constitution, that no determination would be made at this stage on the ground of challenge raised by the petitioners.”
He then directed the determination of the Supreme Court be printed in the official report of the proceedings.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that Speaker Jayasuriya should give a ruling with regard to the matter. For that purpose the Speaker should summon a meeting of party leaders, he said. The legislature should not let the judiciary usurp its powers.
However, if the Speaker and the Supreme Court insisted that the government should bring about afresh bill on VAT, the government would do so, Wickremesinghe said.
“We would not sack the Chief Justice or bring an impeachment against him because the court did not give us a favourable ruling,” he said.
MEP Leader Dinesh Gunwardena said that the VAT bill brought by Finance Minister brought was null and void and the Supreme Court too had also held so. “There is a responsibility with minister when a bill is brought to parliament. Had the secretary to the Ministry misled the minister it is would have been another matter, but the Secretary General too had made a mistake here. The bill had not received the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers. When a bill is presented to Parliament, the letter containing the approval of the cabinet is attached to the bill. If there is no document, it is the Secretary General of Parliament to inform the minister or secretary to the ministry that the certificate of cabinet of ministers’ approval is missing. Without that certificate of approval, a draft bill could not be included in the Order Book or the Order Paper of Parliament. The Secretary General should not let such a bill to be presented to this House. Had this bill not been challenged before the Supreme Court, it would have become the law though it did not have the approval of the cabinet or against the provisions of the Constitution.”
Speaker Jayasuriya said that a special meeting of party leaders would be held to discuss the future course of action with regard to the VAT bill.