By Chitra Weerarathne
A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court yesterday by a majority decision granted leave to appeal with the Application of Appeal filed by Geetha Kumarasinghe against the Court of Appeal judgement of Jan. 31, 2017.
The Supreme Court extended the interim relief granted earlier in favour of the appellant Kumarasinghe.
The interim relief suspended the operation of the Court of Appeal Judgement dated January 31, which disqualified Kumarasinghe from being a Member of Parliament, on the basis she was a dual citizen at the time of nomination.
The appeal will be argued in the Supreme Court on September 25.
At the outset yesterday President’s Counsel Romesh de Silva said that his client, the appellant Geetha Kumarasinghe had become a citizen of Switzerland by virtue of her marriage to a Swiss national. She had not applied for the citizenship of Switzerland. It was an involuntary act.
That did not disqualify her from seeking nomination holding office as a Member of Parliament, and voting in Parliament.
The original petitioners at the Court of Appeal, some residents of Galle, had not challenged the decision of Geetha Kumarasinghe by way of an election petition, the Counsel pointed out.
A Writ of Quo Warrant was only applicable to public officers and not to Members of Parliament, the counsel argued.
Parliament was the sole judge of its Members’ affairs. The court could not interfere into the internal affairs of Parliament, which was privilege, the counsel maintained.
The Court of Appeal Judgement was wrong and it had violated the franchise of the people who had elected Kumarasinghe and further the judgement interfered with the privileges of Parliament. No court could do that, De Silva, PC said.
President’s Counsel J. C. Weliamune, who appeared for the respondent residents of Galle said that the appeal application had not named the next in line who would take up Kumarasinghe’s seat if she got disqualified. The petition was not properly drafted.
It should be dismissed in limine.
The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, prohibited dual citizens from seeking nominations.
At the time of nomination Kumarasinghe had declared that there was no cause to disqualify her nomination and she had not divulged that she was a dual citizen; she happened to be a dual citizen even now, Weliamuna argued.
Receiving dual citizenship by virtue of marriage made no difference; she was a dual citizen. One could not say it was by an involuntary act.
Marriage was not an involuntary act, the counsel said.
The Deputy Solicitor General Janak de Silva, who appeared for the Attorney General, the Secretary General of Parliament and the Controller of Immigration and Emigration, said that the petitioner was still a dual citizen as far as the records were concerned. He referred to the records of the Department of Immigration and Emigration.
The record was placed before the Court of Appeal by the petitioner residents of Galle, who had complained to the Court of Appeal that Kumarasinghe did not provide documentation in the Court of Appeal to disprove the allegation that she was a dual citizen. She had applied for a diplomatic passport without admitting that she was a dual citizen.
That was on Sept. 1, 2015, after she had taken oaths as a Member of Parliament.
Later on, she had asked for the revocation of her Swiss citizenship.
The Commissioner Immigration and Emigration had tried to contact her to make sure that she had got her Swiss citizenship revoked before issuing a VIP passport. But Kumarasinghe did not respond. Hence, she was still a dual citizen.
Kumarasinghe had obtained citizenship in Switzerland after her marriage. In 2006, she applied for a dual citizenship in Sri Lanka. There lied the intention to be a citizen of Switzerland and Sri Lanka.
She intended to keep both the Swiss and Sri Lankan citizenships.
Article 100 of the Constitution says a disqualified MP is liable for Rs. 500 penalty for each sitting. These disqualification is disqualification at the time of the election.
Counsel Chandaka Jayasundera appeared for Mahinda Amaraweera, a respondent in the appeal application.
Counsel said that Kumarasinghe had violated Article 91 of the Constitution by sitting in Parliament while being a dual citizen.
The Bench comprised Justice Eva Wanasundera, Justice Upali Abeyratne and Justice Anil Gooneratne.