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SC concludes hearing petitions for and against constitutionality of 20A

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Determination to be conveyed to President, Speaker

By Chitra Weeraratne and A.J.A. Abeynayake

The Supreme Court yesterday concluded the hearing of petitions for and against the constitutionality of the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution. The decision of the court will be conveyed to the President and the Speaker.

The five-Judge Bench of the Court heard petitions for the fourth day yesterday.

Thirty nine petitions were filed against the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution.

 The immunity granted to the President in Article 35, was only during his term of office, Attorney General, Dappulu De Livera informed the Court yesterday.

He appeared for the state, pertaining to the Bill.

President’s Counsel De Livera explained that according to the 20th Amendment the decisions of the Supreme Court were final. Similarly, the Parliament enjoyed certain immunity. There was immunity around every organ of the government, he said.

The immunity under Article 35, was only confined to the term of office in the Bill, but liable thereafter.

“Article 31 states that the President is the Head of Armed forces, according to the amendment. This is needed for public safety, law and order during natural disasters and catastrophes.

If the acts of the President is to be obstructed it will affect all the aforesaid issues. If the President’s actions as are to be subjected to judicial review it will impede his work. This immunity is in Article 35.

In the amendment the President is vested with immunity to safeguard the nation and national security.

The Article 126 jurisdiction is not necessary in view of Article 138 in the Bill, which is a constitutional check on the President.

If the President is constantly pulled back by Article 126, his work will be impeded. The Article 138 in the Bill checks on the acts of the President.

In a vibrant democracy this check has to operate.

In terms of Article 131, the President Exercised Executive power. If that was impeded the sovereignty of the people would be affected.

If the Acts of the President were subject to constant judicial review, his work as President would be impeded. The President had to exercise executive power in public interest and no other, the AG argued.

The AG submitted that Article 126 jurisdiction amounted to a fetter on the presidential acts. He then referred to the dissolution of Parliament in section 14 of the Bill, which seeks to restore the power of the President to dissolve Parliament within one year.

The power to dissolve is granted to the President in public interest. When the President exercises the power vested in him under Article 70, the franchise of the people is ensured. When Parliament is unstable the sovereignty of the people has to be protected. The Executive under public interest can handle instability. Parliament may be elected by the people. If a bad situation arises, the Parliament should be dissolved and the people will be asked to give a fresh mandate.

The Prime Minister has to command the confidence of the Parliament. If that is lost, the remedy is for the President to remove him.

The power to remove the Prime Minister in public interest is vested in the President in the new amendment.

The four-and-a half-year period for the dissolution of Parliament had proved ineffective. The Parliament must go on for the welfare of the people, not otherwise when Constitutional Council is replaced by Parliamentary Council, the institution had only been re-defined, the AG added.

The final decision maker was the President. He would exercise t in public interest, the AG added.

“The Executive Power is in the President, not in the Constitutional Council. The President’s hands are not tied.

On Wednesday (30), counsel appearing on behalf of 32 of the petitions filed challenging the proposed constitutional amendment concluded their statements.

When the petitions were taken up on Friday (02), the counsel representing all 39 petitions against the constitutional amendments concluded their oral submissions against the original draft of the 20th Amendment.

During the hearings last week Attorney General Dappula de Livera informed the Supreme Court that amendments would be introduced during the committee stage debate in Parliament on the draft 20th Amendment.

The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and the Tamil National Alliance are among  the groups that filed petitions in the court against the 20th Amendment to the Constitution.

The five-Judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya commenced hearing of the petitions last Tuesday (Sept. 29).

 The bench includes Justices Buwaneka Aluwihare, Justice Sisira de Abrew, Justice Priyantha Jayawardena and Justice Vijith Malalgoda.

 

 

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Majority of 300 luxury vehicles to be released

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… some shipped in without opening LCs, EU wants restrictions abolished

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The majority of the luxury vehicles imported by special permit holders in contravention of the import ban imposed by the government in view of precarious economic situation caused by corona first wave are likely to be released subject to penalties.

Well informed sources said that those vehicles shipped in without even opening LCs would be released. Among the violators were many government servants.

Sources said that vehicles brought in without opening LCs were likely to be confiscated.

“We have categorised over 300 vehicles, including BMWs, Mercedes-Benz and Audis into two groups. Customs are now in the process of evaluating individual cases,” a high ranking state official said.

The government announced a ban on vehicle imports to arrest the depletion of foreign reserves. Sources acknowledged that at the time the vehicles

arrived in Sri Lanka the second corona wave hadn’t erupted. The situation was far worse now and further deteriorating, they said, adding that the Customs were being inundated with requests for releasing vehicles on sympathetic grounds.

Controversy surrounds the failure on the part of the government to strictly implement the import ban in view of the sharp drop in state revenue due to the pandemic.

Recently, the EU demanded that Sri Lanka immediately lift import ban or face the consequences. The EU issued the warning in talks with government representatives. Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena explained the circumstances that compelled the government to impose import restrictions. The EU sought an explanation as to when the ban would be lifted. The Foreign Ministry quoted Foreign Minister Gunawardena as having explained to the EU the challenges Sri Lanka economy was facing amidst the dwindling foreign currency reserve situation due to the significant reduction in remittances and tourism revenue induced by the COVID-19 global pandemic. The minister said that the import restrictions were being reviewed.

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Nearly 74,000 persons under home quarantine

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Close to 74,000 people belonging to 27,974 families had been placed under home quarantine, Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said on Wednesday (25).

He said that the number of cases from the Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda clusters had increased to 17,436 with 458 persons had tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.

Two wards of the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital, Panadura were temporarily closed on Wednesday after two pregnant women admitted there tested COVID-19 positive.

The two women are from Atalugama, which has been declared an isolated area. During the last few days close to half of the COVID-19 patients detected in Colombo District are from Atalugama.

The two women have been sent to Neville Fernando Hospital, Malabe. The patients and staff in Wards 3 and 4 at the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital are now under quarantine. Their family members too have been asked to undergone self-quarantine.

The Police had arrested 61 persons who had violated quarantine laws within the 24 hours that ended at 8 am yesterday, Police spokesman, DIG Ajith Rohana said, adding that they had been arrested for not wearing masks or for not maintaining physical distancing. With those altogether 688 persons had been arrested for violating quarantine laws from October 30, he said.

Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya said that apart from Welikada, the spread of COVID-19 had been controlled at other prisons. COVID-19 cases had been reported from six prisons, he added.

“We are conducting PCR tests and hope that the situation in Welikada too would be brought under control. Twenty four new cases were detected from prisons on November 24 and from October 04, we have identified 708 cases within the prison system.”

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Severity of impact of second wave on economy could be far worse than anticipated – CBSL

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatte

The impact of the second wave of COVID-19 could be severer on the economic growth than previously anticipated, Director of Economic Research at the Central Bank Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara said yesterday (26).

Dr. Amarasekera said so responding to a query by The Island at a CBSL media briefing. The top official said that an assessment couldn’t be made yet as the second wave was continuing.

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