Dissolution of Parliament unconstitutional – Supreme Court

The Supreme Court announces that the gazette notification dissolving the parliament is not in accordance with the constitution. 

The seven member judge bench unanimously made this judgment stating that it was illegal to dissolve the parliament before its 4.5 year term limit.

The Supreme Court delivered its judgment on the petition on the President’s decision to dissolve the parliament, a short while ago.

The verdict was delivered by the Chief Justice Nalin Perera. Accordingly, the Supreme Court quashed the gazette notification published on the 9th November dissolving the parliament.

Meanwhile, Justice Sisira De Abrew declared that the parliament cannot be dissolved in any way until the minimum term of 4.5 years passes.  According to De Abrew, a proposal voted for by two-third of MPs in the parliament should be obtained in order to dissolve the parliament before the term of 4.5 years ends.

“I make order that the November 9 Gazette (decree) sacking parliament… has no force or effect in law and declare its operation illegal,” Chief Justice Nalin Perera said as he delivered the landmark judgment to a packed courtroom.

Sri Lanka was on the edge, ahead of the crucial Supreme Court ruling on President Maithripala Sirisena’s controversial sacking of Parliament and call for a snap election that pushed the country into unprecedented political turmoil.

As many as 13 petitions were filed against the President’s November 9 order sacking the 225-member Parliament, almost 20 months before its term was to end, and setting the election date for January 5.

The petitions have been filed by political parties including United National Party (UNP), Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) and the All Ceylon People’s Congress.

Organisations and activists such as the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), Attorney Aruna Laksiri and also a member of Elections Commission Prof. S. R. H. Hoole have also filed petitions.

The Supreme Court on November 13 had issued an interim order ruling Sirisena’s gazette notification as temporarily illegal and halted the preparations for snap polls. The hearing in the case was concluded last week as the court reserved its judgment.

The judge bench consisting of Supreme Court Justices consisting of Chief Justice Nalin Perera, Priyantha Jayawardena, Prasanna Jayawardena, Sisira de Abrew, Vijith Malalgoda, Buwaneka Aluwihare and Murdu Fernando commenced hearing the petitions on the 4th of December.

On the final day of hearing of the petitions, President’s Counsel S. Kanageswaran, representing the leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) R. Sampanthan, presented submissions on behalf of the petitioners.

He stated that the impunity conferred to the President of the country, under Article 35 of the Constitution, in civil or criminal proceedings has been inhibited to a certain extent by the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

Pointing out that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution has made provisions to file lawsuits under Fundamental Rights against the executive and administrative actions of the President, he said that the official activities of the President can be queried before the court.

Hence, the dissolution of the Parliament is also an official activity carried out by the President, it can be challenged before the court under the Fundamental Rights provisions, President’s Counsel Kanageswaran had further said.

The rest of the attorneys appearing on behalf of the petitioners also presented submissions in this regard.

The petitioners had presented submissions before the court in response to the submissions of the intermediate petitioners.

Presenting submissions before the Supreme Court on the 5th of December, the Attorney General had stated that in accordance with Article 38 (02) of the Constitution, the Supreme Court does not have the legal authority to hear these fundamental rights petitions filed against the parliamentary dissolution.

The Supreme Court last Friday (Dec. 7) concluded the hearing of the petitions filed challenging the Gazette notification dissolving the Parliament after four consecutive days of court hearings.

Meanwhile, the interim order issued by the court, suspending the Gazette notification on the dissolution of Parliament, was extended until the verdict is delivered in the case.

President Sirisena has said he will accept the Supreme Court’s ruling on the petitions filed against his gazette notification dissolving Parliament.

“I look forward to the constitutional interpretation of the Supreme Court. Whatever it may be, I will take future political decisions accordingly, to the best interest of our motherland, not to the benefit of any person, group or party,” the president tweeted on Sunday.

His remarks were apparently aimed at Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) with whom Sirisena was running the national unity government since 2015.

The partnership ended on October 26 when Sirisena fired Wickremesinghe, triggering the political standoff.

Since ousting Wickremesinghe, Sirisena has highlighted the “shortcomings” of the ex-premier in a bid to justify his sacking and dissuade his reinstatement.

The president has already said he has no intention of making Wickremesinghe prime minister again no matter what the outcome of the case.

Both Wickremesinghe and Rajapaksa claim to be the rightful prime minister. Wickremesinghe says his dismissal is invalid because he still commands a majority in Parliament.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya has officially conveyed that the House does not recognise Rajapaksa as the legal prime minister until he proves his majority.

The United National Front (UNF) coalition led by Wickeremesinghe has moved three no-trust motions against Rajapaksa.

The motions came to be adopted after the speaker summoned Parliament, in a direct confrontation with Sirisena.

The verdict is a major blow to Maithripala Sirisena, seven weeks into a political crisis in the island nation that has sparked alarm abroad and concern over its finances.

Reports said that the top court’s verdict meant that the parliamentary elections will be held as scheduled after February 2020, following its four and a half years of term.

Following the ruling, Wickremesinghe in a statement on his Twitter account urged Sirisena to respect the judgement while his United National Party said they hope to meet the President later on Thursday to discuss the court’s ruling.

The Supreme Court’s verdict came a day after Parliament passed a vote of confidence in Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister.

Namal Rajapaksa, a member of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, said his party respected the court’s decision but they would continue their call for a parliamentary election in order to end the ongoing political struggle.

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