(VIDEO) Port City bill; Supreme Court determination tabled in Parliament

(VIDEO) Port City bill; Supreme Court determination tabled in Parliament

Written by Staff Writer

18 May, 2021 | 10:17 pm

COLOMBO (News1st): The Supreme Court Determination on the constitutionality of the Port City Economic Commission bill was tabled in parliament today.

According to the recommendation, certain provisions require a two-thirds majority in parliament to be passed into law, while some provisions required to be passed by a two-thirds majority and a referendum.

The bill included provisions that made it mandatory for the regulatory authorities to grant approval to the requests of the Commission seeking regulatory approval.

The SC stated that this is inconsistent with Article 12(1) of the constitution as it takes away the discretion of regulatory authorities.

The SC determined states that this inconsistency could be remedied by ensuring that the regulatory authorities retain their discretion within the port city.

The bill creates a parallel structure of regulations where both the Commission and the existing regulatory authorities exercise concurrent power.

The Supreme court determined that the regulatory structure set out in the bill lacks clarity, and provides for the exercise of arbitrary powers by the commission and thus is inconsistent with Article 12(1) of the constitution.

The SC pointed out that this inconsistency would cease if amendments are made to ensure that the commission in exercising regulatory powers vested in other Regulatory Authorities bodies, should always obtain the approval of the respective Regulatory
Authorities.

The bill attempted to grant powers to the commission to prepare and enforce all Community Rules including criminal sanctions and Development Control Regulations in the port city.

However, the SC determined that the said clauses are inconsistent with Article 76 read with Articles 3 and 4
of the Constitution as legislative powers should be exercised by parliament.

The SC in their determination held that the commission cannot draft development control regulations and rules that impose criminal sanctions.

The determination states that the Bill as it stands now does not provide for any guidelines in the granting of exemptions or incentives and adds that neither the individual exemptions nor incentives go before Parliament for approval.

This grants the commission and unfettered discretion to grant exemptions.

The SC required that there must be transparent guidelines based on which the exemptions are granted and guidelines themselves must have the approval of parliament.

The bill attempted to grant powers to the Commission to impose and collect taxes.

The SC held that this is inconsistent with Article 148 of the constitution because taxes cannot be levied without the consensus of the parliament.

However, the SC added that the inconsistency can be cured by limiting this power to the imposition and collection of rates.

Court held that the cumulatively the provisions in the bill that require a person to obtain prior approval of the Commission in order to visit the Area of Authority of the Colombo Port City and requiring a levy to be paid for goods and services upon leaving the port city are inconsistent with Article 14(1)(h) of the Constitution.

Court took the view that it restricts the movement of people in Sri Lanka. Court proposed a number of amendments to cure this inconsistency.

Clause 37 permits an Authorised Person to engage in business, in partnership with a citizen, outside the area of the Port City. SC determines that in such an event, exemptions granted cannot apply to business carried on outside the Port City area.

SC proposed that it can be cured by limiting the operation of the exemptions in the port city.

Further, the determination notes that the AG had agreed to include amendments to ensure that the majority of commissioners are Sri Lankan.

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