By S. S. Selvanayagam
The Court of Appeal yesterday deferred hearings on the Writ of Quo Warranto filed against Mahinda Rajapaksa and 48 others, challenging their authority to hold office as Prime Minister and Cabinet of Ministers, until 30 November, after counsel for the respondents claimed they had not received notice in the case.
President’s Counsels Sanjeewa Jayawardane, Gamini Marapana, Manohara De Silva, Ali Sabry and Shavindra Fernando appeared as counsel for several respondents cited in the writ application filed 23 November, and told the Court that notice in the case had not been issued to their clients.
They had appeared in court on the instructions of their clients, having heard about the case, the lawyers said.
Notice was served on all respondents on 23 November by registered post, but Counsel for the petitioners undertook to serve papers on all 49 respondents again by private courier. To those counsel for the respondents who appeared in court when the case was taken up yesterday, papers were served in open court.
The Bench comprised Justices P. Padman Surasena (President/CA) and Arjuna Obeysekera set dates for hearing the case on 30 November and 3 December, giving the counsel for the petitioners time to receive notice.
122 members of Parliament filed legal action last week, challenging the authority of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to hold office as Prime Minister, after a No Confidence Motion was passed against him in the House.
All 122 MPs – comprising members of the UNF, JVP and TNA – filed an application for a Writ of Quo Warranto against the former President, who was controversially appointed Prime Minister by President Maithripala Sirisena on 26 October. The Quo Warranto Writ challenges former President Rajapaksa to prove on what authority he holds office as Prime Minister after the Legislature voted twice to defeat him on 14 and 16 November. The petition cites another 48 MPs purportedly holding office as Ministers, State Ministers and Deputy Ministers after the Cabinet was dissolved by virtue of Article 48 (2) of the constitution after the two No Confidence Motions were passed in Parliament.
President’s Counsel K. Kanag Iswaran appeared for all 122 Petitioners. Gamini Marapana PC appeared for the first respondent and purported Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The 122 petitioners are also seeking interim relief from the Court restricting the respondents from exercising powers as Prime Minister, Ministers, and Deputy Ministers, until the final determination and hearing of their application is concluded.
Petitioners in their petition state as follows:
“On 14th November 2018, Parliament passed a vote of no-confidence against the purported government of the Respondents.
“On 15th November 2018, Parliament convened again and the Speaker stated the in view of the no-confidence vote passed on 14th November 2018, there was, among other things, no Government and that he did not recognise Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister.
“On 16th November 2018, because the Respondents purportedly continued to function in office, Parliament passed another vote of no-confidence against the Government.
“Therefore under and in terms of Article 48 of the Constitution, the Cabinet stood dissolved from 14th November 2018,” Petitioners claim.
They express dismay that His Excellency the President, notwithstanding the dissolution of Cabinet, continues to lawfully be in charge of the Ministries of Defence and Mahaweli Development and Environment.
They complain that in view of that fact, that the purported Ministers are unlawful, illegitimate, and purported to exercise Government power in direct violation of express provision of the Constitution.
They caution that a state of anarchy and chaos would ensue in the country, given that the purported Government has lost two votes of no-confidence and does not command a majority in Parliament.