SC commences inquiry into constitutional amendment petitions

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 01 October 2002, 17:02 GMT]
Thirty-two petitions filed against the eighteenth and nineteenth constitutional amendments tabled by the United National Front government were taken up for inquiry before a seven-member bench of the Supreme Court, Tuesday. The Chief Justice earlier named a five-member bench to hear the petitions filed by opposition parties, civil groups and individuals.

According to the draft eighteenth amendment the members of the Constitutional Council (CC) and other members of the independent commissions for Election, Police, Judiciary and Public Service cannot be prosecuted in courts and no decision of the Constitutional Council can be challenged in courts including the SC on the grounds of fundamental rights violations.

According to the nineteenth amendment, the President cannot dissolve parliament after one year of its existence arbitrarily and also parliamentarians who vote for the said amendment cannot be expelled from any party.

The main opposition People’s Alliance, Sri Lanka Freedom Party, Lanka Sama Samaja Party, Liberal Party, Sinhala Jathika Sangamaya, are among the political groups that have filed petitions challenging the constitutionality of the 18 and 19th amendments.

The petitioners have requested the SC to determine that the said amendments are not in consistent with the Constitution and in addition to the passage in parliament with two third majority these amendments should be approved at a referendum.

The bench comprised the Chief Justice Mr.Sarath N.Silva (Chairman), Justices S.W.B.Wadugodapitiya, Ameer Ismail, Shiranee Bandaranaike, P.Edussuriya, Hector S.Yapa and Asoka de Silva.

President Counsel Mr. H.L.De Silva who appeared for the main opposition People’s Alliance in his submission said that the proposed nineteenth amendment would directly affects the sovereignty of the people and franchise. The said amendment will take away the powers of the President to dissolve parliament in power.

Attorney Mr.R.K.W.Gunasekara appearing on behalf of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party in his submission said that disciplinary action couldn’t be taken against any parliamentarian who voted for the nineteenth amendment. This would create problems in maintaining party discipline. The constitutional amendment should be approved at a referendum.

Further inquiry was put off for October 3.


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