The second day of hearing of Fundamental Rights (FR) 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 has set 20 June as the date for the General Election were taken up before a five-member Bench of the Supreme Court yesterday.
The Bench comprises Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya as well as Justices Buwaneka Aluvihare, Sisira de Abrew, Priyantha Jayawardena, and Vijith Malalgoda.
Counsel for five of the Petitioners made submissions yesterday arguing that the Gazette notification issued by the President dissolving Parliament is no longer valid as the Constitution stipulates the new Parliament must meet within three months of such a dissolution.
Attorney Suren Fernando who appeared for the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SBJ) General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara, former MPs Champika Ranawaka and Kumar Welgama submitted that the Constitution makes the President responsible to Parliament and he is required by law to attend Parliament once in three months and he questioned how this can be done if the Parliament stands dissolved for over three months.
He also said the election that was set for 25 April in the Gazette notification issued by the President would not be held and the new Parliament could not meet on 14 May and hence that a proclamation is not valid anymore and added that citizens have a right to have a functioning Parliament and if not for the early dissolution of this Parliament by the President, this Parliament would continue until September.
Attorney Viran Corea who appeared for the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) in his submissions said that the election must be free and fair and safe, and cited opinions expressed by health officials that under the prevailing conditions, holding an election is not safe. He also said that until a new Parliament can be elected, the functions of Parliament must continue.
Corea also said as Parliament has full control of public finance and must not remain without functioning for more than three months as money drawn for public expenditure form consolidated fund must be approved by the House.
Attorney Ikram Mohammed PC who appeared on behalf of Petitioner SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem said that the dissolution proclamation has ceased to be valid and is inoperative and cannot be carried forward, and said it is the President who has the power to fix the date of an election, which he has done, but the election could not be held on the stipulated date.
He also said that it is the duty of the Election Commission to conduct free and fair elections and that is also the duty of the President. He also said that as the Supreme Court is the final guardian of the Fundamental Rights, there is no other place to go. Additional Solicitor General Indika Demuni de Silva appearing on behalf of the Attorney General, and Romesh de Silva PC who appeared for Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundera, who has been named as a Respondent, said they intend to submit preliminary objections in the future regarding the CPA’s petition.
When the petition filed by Democratic United National Front Secretary Ariyawansa Dissanayake was taken up for consideration, the Bench pointed out that notice has not been handed over to former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya who has been named a Respondent in the petition and directed that this must be done.
Proceedings will resume this morning.