Written by Sharlan Benedict
29 Sep, 2020 | 8:36 pm
COLOMBO (News1st): Attorney General Dappula De Livera submitted to court today a document that included committee stage amendments the government is planning on making to the 20th amendment to the constitution.
The document was submitted to the court when 39 fundamental rights applications filed against the 20th amendment was taken up for consideration today.
The petitions are being considered by a 5 judge bench headed by Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya.
At the beginning of the hearings, today Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya said that court expects to conclude the hearings of the petitions by this Friday.
Thereby 30 minutes was allocated for each counsel representing the petitioners.
The Supreme Court will hear submissions on 39 petitions and 7 intervening petitions.
The MTV/MBC Network also filed a petition against the 20th amendment, on the right to free speech and freedom of media.
Before the counsel for the petitioners made oral submissions in court today Attorney General Dappula De Livera informed the court that the government intends on making certain amendments to the 20th amendment bill at the committee stage in parliament.
The Attorney General also presented a document containing these proposed amendments.
These proposed committee stage amendments include provisions for the Auditor General to be appointed by the President after inquiring into the observations of the parliamentary council.
It adds that only a qualified auditor can be appointed to this post.
The committee stage amendments propose that the office of the Prime Minister and the President could be audited by the Auditor-General.
The committee stage amendments also include provisions for the president to seek the observations of the parliamentary council when appointing the Inspector General of Police and the General Secretary of Parliament.
The amendments also propose for the number of members of the elections commission to be increased to 5.
The amendments also include provisions for the fundamental rights applications filed against the president before the passage of the 20th amendment to continue in court.
This has also proposed for the president to have the power to appoint the secretary to the prime minister.
Under the proposed committee stage amendments the president will only be able to dissolve parliament 2 and a half years after Parliament first meets.
However, President’s Counsel M.A. Sumanthiran representing a petitioner said that his clients had challenged the 20th amendment to the constitution that was placed on the order paper of parliament.
He emphasized that the court must consider the amendment that has been placed on the order paper of parliament and not any other document.
Counsel for the petitioners pointed out that giving the president full immunity from suit would create a position above the law of the country.
They submitted that therefore the clause to reintroduce blanket immunity for the president should not only be passed by a 2/3rds majority in parliament, but it also must be approved through a referendum.
Speaking on the clause that would allow dual citizens to contest and hold a seat in parliament, Attorney At Law Suren Fernando said that since dual citizens have sworn allegiance to a foreign nation, this clause affects the sovereignty of the people.
He added that as such this clause too must be approved by the people at a referendum.
Attorney At Law Suren Fernando added that the duty of the president included in the current constitution to be responsible to parliament has been repealed through the 20th amendment and re-included as a separate clause in the same amendment.
He added that there is a suspicion as to if this clause requiring the president to be responsible to parliament would be removed at the committee stage in parliament.
Counsel for the petitioners submitted that although the certain factions contend that it is the 19th amendment to the constitution that is being repealed, the entire constitution must be considered as a single document.
The counsel submitted that according to the 20th amendment does not propose the repeal of a single amendment but some of the most fundamental principles of our constitution, and thus it has to be approved by the general public at a referendum.
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