The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and its Executive Director Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu yesterday filed a Petition in the Supreme Court (SC SD 28/2021) challenging the proposed Finance Bill, which was placed on the order paper of Parliament on 20 July.
The bill seeks to provide an amnesty from tax, penalty or interest, or from any investigation or prosecution, to anyone who has not disclosed any taxable supply, income or asset which was required to be disclosed by law, provided that they invest an equivalent amount in the manner specified in the Bill.
CPA’s action follows main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Parliamentarian Eran Wickramaratne and JVP former parliamentarian Sunil Hadunneththi filing separate petitions in the Supreme Court against the Finance Bill.
CPA said its position is that several clauses in the bill are inconsistent with the Constitution, including several entrench provisions, and thus cannot be passed into law except if approved by the people at a referendum in addition to a two-thirds vote of the whole number of the Members of Parliament in favour as required by Article 83 (a) of the Constitution.
CPA challenged clauses 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the Bill on the basis that they are inconsistent with Articles 12 (1), 4 (d), 14 (1)(g) read with Article 3 of the Constitution, as inter alia they legitimise fraud and are discriminatory towards those who have already disclosed and paid their taxes in accordance with the law.
CPA also challenged clauses 10, 11 and 17 on similar grounds. CPA further challenged clause 7 of the bill, which guarantees secrecy regarding the identity of such declarants, which is in violation of Articles 12 (1), 14 A, 4 (d) read with Article 3 of the Constitution.
CPA noted with concern that if passed, the bill will result in impunity to those involved in corruption and fraud on the State and the populace as a whole. Further, the lack of transparency is inconsistent with the principles of good governance, especially in an era where the Right to Information has been expressly recognised by the Constitution and guaranteed to the people.
The Finance Bill was presented to the House last Tuesday (20 July) by Leader of the House Dinesh Gunawardena. It can be challenged in the Supreme Court within seven days after its tabling in the House.