By Chandani Kirinde
The Supreme Court yesterday began hearings into several Fundamental Rights petitions that have been filed challenging the Gazette issued by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dissolving Parliament as well as the Gazette issued by the Election Commission that set 20 June as the date for the poll.
The case is being heard before a five-member Bench consisting of Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya as well as Justices Buwaneka Aluvihare, Sisira de Abrew, Priyantha Jayawardena, and Vijith Malalgoda.
Submissions for petitioners Attorney-at-Law Charitha Gunaratna and senior journalist Victor Ivan were made by M.A. Sumanthiran PC, who said that a functioning Parliament was essential in a democracy and during a time of crisis it was even more important and must be strengthened.
He said the Gazette notification issued by the President dissolving Parliament on 2 March which fixed 25 April for the General Election and 14 May for the new Parliament to meet was now null and void as the date set for the holding of the election as well as the meeting of the new Parliament had passed. He said there was provision in the law for the President to summon the dissolved Parliament and it was essential for Parliament to approve public expenditure drawn from the Consolidated Fund.
Sumanthiran also said that the nominations for the election had been accepted on three days which had been declared special public holidays by the Government due to the coronavirus outbreak and said this ran contrary to the provisions of the Parliamentary Elections Act.
He also said that while the franchise was the right of every citizen, there must be room for them to exercise the vote in a free and fair manner which may not be possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Further submissions will be made today by the AG, counsel for the other petitioners as well as on behalf of the intervenient petitioners.
In addition to the AG and Secretary to the President, the other Respondents in the case are Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya and Members of the Commission N.J. Abeysekara and Ratnajeevan Hoole.