By Lakmal Sooriyagoda
The Supreme Court yesterday granted leave to proceed with the four Fundamental Rights petitions filed challenging the legality of the proclamation issued by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declaring a state of emergency on April 1.
The Supreme Court three-judge-bench comprising Justice Murdu Fernando, Justice Achala Wengappuli and Justice Mahinda Samayawardena granted leave to proceed for violating Fundamental Rights under Article 12(1), 14(1)(a), 14(1)(g) and 14(1)(h) of the constitution. The Supreme Court fixed the four petitions for argument on July 15.
On 1st of April 2022, the President had declared a state of emergency by issuing a proclamation under section 2 of the Public Security Ordinance.
The petitioners are further challenging the legality of the curfew order issued by the President on April 2 under section 16 of the Public Security Ordinance.
The petitioners alleged that the President acting in the capacity of the Minister of Defence had issued a direction to the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission by instructing the service providers to temporarily restrict access to social media platforms.
President’s Counsel M.A. Sumanthiran appearing for journalist Roel Raymond submitted to court that the decision to declare a state of emergency was not in the interest of public security but solely for the collateral purpose of preventing the people from voicing their legitimate criticism against the incumbent government. Sumanthiran argued that the purpose behind the issuance of the curfew order was not the maintenance of public order but specifically the suppression of public protests.
However, Deputy Solicitor General Rajiv Goonatilleke appearing for the Attorney General stated that a proclamation of emergency regulation issued by the President cannot be challenged in Court. He argued that the emergency regulation and curfew order had been issued by the President for the purpose of safeguarding people and their property from an imminent breach of peace.
Dr. Gehan Gunatilleke, Counsel Pulasthi Hewamanne, Counsel Suren Fernando instructed by Attorney-at-law Raj Mohan Balendra practicing in the name, style and firm of Sinnadurai Sundaralingam and Balendra appeared for petitioners Rasika Jayakody, Shashi Windsor and Lihini Fernando.