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Petitions challenging polls gazette: Further consideration today

The Supreme Court is to further consider the fundamental rights (FR) petitions filed challenging the date of the general election at 10 a.m. today (20).
Seven FR petitions filed challenging the gazette issued declaring 20 June as the date of the General Election 2020 and the gazette notification issued by the President dissolving the Parliament, were taken up for consideration for the second consecutive day by the Supreme Court yesterday (19).

Seven parties including Attorney-at-Law Charitha Gunaratne, the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), journalist Victor Ivan, and the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) had filed the FR petitions, while several parties including Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera filed intermediary petitions seeking the court’s permission to intervene in the FR petitions.

The petitions were heard before a five-member judge bench consisting of Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya and Justices Buwaneka Aluvihare, Sisira de Abrew, Priyantha Jayawardena, and Vijith Malalgoda.

Attorney-at-Law Suren Fernando, appearing on behalf of the petitions filed by the SJB and former MPs Patali Champika Ranawaka and Kumara Welgama presented facts to the court yesterday while Ikram Mohamed PC made submissions on behalf of the petition filed by Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Leader Rauff Hakeem.

Attorney-at-Law Viran Corea appeared on behalf of the CPA and its Executive Director Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu and presented facts before the court.

When the petition filed by the CPA was taken up, Additional Solicitor General Indika Demuni de Silva, appearing on behalf of the Attorney General (AG), declared that she intends to present preliminary objections with regard to the petition.

Romesh de Silva PC, appearing on behalf of Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundera, who has been named as a respondent, stated that he too intends to submit preliminary objections in the future.

When the petition filed by Democratic United National Front (DUNF) Secretary Ariyawansa Dissanayake was taken up for consideration, the judge bench pointed out that the notice has not been handed over to former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya who has been named as a respondent.

Accordingly, the consideration of that petition was postponed until 10 a.m. today (20) while the court ordered the petitioner’s attorney to hand over the notice to the former Speaker without delay.

The attorneys representing the members of the Election Commission (EC) and the AG were scheduled to make submissions today.

The AG, on behalf of the President, EC Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya, and EC members N.J. Abeysekara and Prof. S. Ratnajeevan Hoole have been named as respondents in the petitions.

The petitioners have argued that mandatory provisions have been provided by the Constitution to fix a date for the parliamentary election and convene the new Parliament no later than three months from the dissolution of Parliament.

Accordingly, the President had published a gazette notification on 2 March, dissolving the then Parliament, and the general election was subsequently declared to be held on 25 April. However, the EC later decided to postpone the poll to 20 June due to the local outbreak of the Covid-19 virus, they had pointed out.

The EC setting 20 June as the new date for the poll is against the provisions of the Constitution, they had stressed in their petitions.

In addition, the failure to convene the new Parliament within three months of the dissolution of the previous Parliament makes the gazette issued by the President invalid, the petitioners argued.

The petitioners said that a free and fair election cannot be held as the threat of the Covid-19 virus is yet to be eliminated, adding that it is a violation of the people’s right to vote freely.