Counsels representing EC and EC commissioners express contradictory stances in court

Counsels representing EC and EC commissioners express contradictory stances in court

Counsels representing EC and EC commissioners express contradictory stances in court

Written by Staff Writer

20 May, 2020 | 8:46 pm

COLOMBO (News1st) : Eight petitions challenging the dissolution of Parliament and the parliamentary poll will be taken up for further consideration on Thursday, after the polls body informed court that the election cannot be held on June 20.

Appearing for election commission member Nalin Abeyasekera, and Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya, PC Saliya Peris said that the polls body acted in a manner that can be justified in these extraordinary and unprecedented times, and submitted that court must not grant leave to proceed against his clients.

He also notified court that the elections cannot be held on the 20th of June, as per written instructions given to him by the elections commission.

PC M.A. Sumanthiran speaking shortly afterwards said that he will not continue the FR petition filed on behalf of Charitha Gunarathne as substantial relief had been granted when court was notified that elections will not be held on the 20th of June.

PC Saliya Peris said that the elections commission can hold the election between 9 to 11 weeks from the date that health authorities in the country confirm that the COVID-19 pandemic has been brought under control.

He however added that there are other factors that could affect the polls such as a spike in COVID-19 cases in the country.

Attorney at law Astika Devendra representing Prof. Rathnajeewan Hoole, a member of the elections commission disputed the validity of the the nominations that were accepted on the 17th, 18th and 19th of March.

He said that the elections commission relied on the media release issued by the department of Government Information announcing these days as a special holiday and not a public holiday.

He added that however the elections commission later received a gazette notification declaring these days as public holidays.

However Choksy, PC representing the two other members of the elections commission disputed this claim and submitted that these days were infact not declared as public holidays but were only named as special holidays

Making submissions on behalf of the 8th petitioner, Att. at Law Moditha T.B. Ekanayake, argued that the proclamation issued by the president dissolving parliament is invalid.

He also submitted that the Articles 70 (1), (5) and Article 32(3) lays down an indispensable and mandatory rule that the republic cannot function without an active parliament.

Speaking about the power to handle public finances he requested court to give an interpretation to the words “public services” mentioned in Article 150 (3) of the constitution and added that this must be done to preserve the separation of powers and safeguard the rule of law.

Deputy Solicitor General Indika Demuni de Silva appearing for the Attorney General also questioned Attorney at law Astika Devendra as to how he can dispute the stance of the elections commission on the accepting of nominations, while representing a member of the commission.

He responded saying that as his client was named as a separate respondent in the case he has the right to represent his clients stance in court.

Appearing for the secretary of the SLPP, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe PC submitted that the arguments made on behalf of the petitioners have no basis in law and therefore they should not be granted leave to proceed.

He added that there is not requirement for parliament to convene within 3 months.

He cited Article 104J interoperated into the constitution through the 19th amendment, interpreting the phrase “during the period of an election” and said that this provision had given the Elections commission more freedom to conduct the elections without any time constraints that were previous included.

Representing the Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundara, PC Romesh De Silva objected to granting leave to proceed on the basis that no expert evidence had been presented to court on why the election cannot be held.

He added that the applications were made mala fide and that some of the petitioners had no Locus standi.

He concurred with PC Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa on the point that there is no requirement for parliament to convene within 3 months, and called the FR applications an abuse of the process of court.

The petitions will be taken up for consideration again at 10 a.m. on Thursday.

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