PC elections and legal wrangles

Sunday, 25 August 2019

“The most effective manner in which a voter may give expression to his views is by silently marking his ballot paper in secrecy at a polling booth. Silent and secret expression of a citizen’s preference as between one candidate and another by vote, is no lesser exercise of freedom of speech and expression than the most eloquent speech from a political platform. To hold otherwise is to undermine the very foundations of the constitution.”

The above statement by Justice Mark Fernando in the case of Karunathilake Vs Dissanayaka stresses the importance of holding an election in a timely manner providing an opportunity for the citizens to express their preference.

We were reminded of the above when the Supreme Court bench took up the questions referred to it by the President whether Provincial Council Elections could be held by way of a proclamation.

Three questions had been referred for the consideration to a bench headed by Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya and comprising justices Prasanna Jayawardane, Buvaneka Aluwihare, Sisira de Abrew and Vijith Malalgoda.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) was informed by the Supreme Court that any member who wishes to intervene and make submissions would be entertained, and on which basis many intervened to argue as to why PC elections should be held or not.

Questions referred to by the President were whether he could “by proclamation forthwith publish the new number of electorates, the boundaries and names assigned to each electorate so created in terms of the report of the Delimitation Committee submitted to the Minister Assigned the subject of Provincial Councils?, whether once such proclamation is made the PC elections could be held under the Provincial Councils Elections Act and finally whether in the absence of such inability to hold PC elections in terms of the present law, the said elections could be held under the law that was in force prior to the enactment of the PC Elections Amendment Act”.

Making submissions, President’s Counsel Ali Sabry said that Parliament must undo their doing and the Judiciary should not intervene in the matter. He explained to court how the delimitation process was started but soon after scuttled in Parliament itself and that only two options are available; that is, for Parliament to review it or to amend or repeal the law and go back to the original status