BASL challenges Port City Economic Commission Bill in Supreme Court

BASL challenges Port City Economic Commission Bill in Supreme Court

BASL challenges Port City Economic Commission Bill in Supreme Court

Written by Zulfick Farzan

15 Apr, 2021 | 4:36 pm

Colombo (News 1st); The Bar Association of Sri Lanka challenged the “Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill” by filing an application with the Supreme Court on Thursday (15).

The BASL in a statement said its Executive Committee directed the President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka Saliya Pieris, PC, and Secretary of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka Rajeev Amarasuriya to challenge the bill under Article 120 of the constitution.

The petitioners are represented by Attorney-at-Law G.G. Arulpragasam.

The Attorney General was named as the respondent under and in terms of the requirements of Article 134(1) of the Constitution.

The Petitioner states that the impugned Bill was placed on the Order Paper of Parliament on the 8th of April 2021, at a time when the sittings of the Supreme Court were suspended for the vacation.

“In terms of the Constitution any citizen seeking to challenge a bill on the grounds that it is inconsistent with the Constitution is required to do so within one week of being placed on the Order Paper of Parliament, which in this instance is the 15th of April 2021,” noted the petition.

The Petitioner states between the 8th April 2021 and 15th April 2021, there were the weekend and three public holidays intervening, thus giving any citizen seeking to challenge the Bill, only two working days to obtain legal advice and representation.

The Petitioner states the circumstances in which the said Bill was placed on the Order Paper has resulted in a lack of consultation and transparency and there has been insufficient time granted to stakeholders to examine the Bill and its effects in detail.

The Petitioner states the impugned Bill consists of several provisions which will affect the administration of justice and will adversely impact on the judicial power of the people exercised through the courts of law in the republic and are hence inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution in respect of the exercise of the sovereignty of the people.

The Petitioner states the Bill imposes an obligation on Courts to give priority to civil and commercial cases of businesses carried in/from the Port City or of which the cause of action arises from the Port City over other litigants. This provision interferes with judicial discretion, and judicial sovereignty thereby violates Articles 3 and 4 of the Constitution as well as Article 12(1).

The Petitioner states that in terms of the penal provisions contained in Clause 68(f), anyone who, inter alia, contravenes and or fails to comply with any rule, code, direction, or guideline made or issued in terms of the Act commits an offense punishable with a fine or imprisonment. However, it appears from the Bill that only ‘regulations’ need to be placed before parliament and not any ‘rule, code, direction or guideline’ breach of which constitutes an offense. The Petitioner states that this would be a violation of the provisions of Articles 1, 2, 3, 4, 75, and 76 of the Constitution.

The Petitioner states that the proposed Bill and/or the aforesaid provisions and/or clauses, inter alia;

Are contrary and/or repugnant to the rule of law;
Are contrary and/or repugnant the independence of the judiciary;
Are in violation of the doctrine of separation of powers;
Amount to repeal and/or suspension of the operation of the Constitution and/or a part thereof;
Abdicates and alienates the legislative power and sets up an authority (other than Parliament), with legislative power

The Petitioner requests the Supreme Court to declare and determine the proposed Bill titled “Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill” is inconsistent with the Constitution and shall become law only if passed by a special majority and/or approved by the people at a referendum.

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