Hearing of petitions against General Election date continues for day 6

Hearing of petitions against General Election date continues for day 6

May 26, 2020   10:21 am

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The Supreme Court has commenced further hearing of the Fundamental Rights petitions filed challenging the date set by the Elections Commission for the General Election, for the 6th day this morning (26).

The petitions are being heard before Supreme Court’s five-member judge bench consisting of Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, Justices Buwaneka Aluvihare, Sisira de Abrew, Priyantha Jayawardena, and Vijith Malalgoda.

On Friday (22), when the petitions were taken up for the 5th consecutive day, the Additional Solicitor General Indika Demuni de Silva, appearing on behalf of the Attorney General, had requested the Supreme Court to dismiss the FR petitions filed challenging the date of the General Election, without taking them up for hearing.

She had pointed out that, according to the Parliamentary Election Act, there are no legal barriers to accepting nomination papers on public holidays.

Parliamentary Elections Act has not provided provisions to call for nominations again if the court rules accepting nominations for the General Election on public holidays is a violation of the law, as sought by the petitioners, she had argued.

Although the petitioners claimed that accepting nomination papers on March 17,18 and 19 is unlawful, a total of 339 nomination papers have been submitted by 42 registered political parties and another 313 by independent groups, she noted adding that no objections were raised against the matter until now.

Hence, the Additional Solicitor General sought the judge bench to dismiss the petitions without taking them up for hearing, as the submissions by the petitioners are baseless.

Seven parties including Attorney at Law Charitha Gunaratne, Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA), and Journalist Victor Ivan, Samagi Jana Balawegaya filed Fundamental Rights petitions challenging the election date set by the Elections Commission.

The Attorney General, on behalf of the President, Chairman of the Election Commission Mahinda Deshapriya, and Members of the Commission N. J. Abeysekara and Ratnajeevan Hoole have been named as respondents of the petition.

Mandatory provisions have been provided by the Constitution to fix a date for the parliamentary election and convene the new Parliament not later than 3 months from the dissolution of Parliament, the petitioners have argued.

Accordingly, the President had published a Gazette notification on March 02, dissolving then-Parliament and the General Election was subsequently declared to be held on April 25. However, the Election Commission later decided to postpone the poll to June 20 due to the local outbreak of COVID-19 virus, they had pointed out.

They have stressed that the Election Commission setting June 20 as the new date for the poll is against the provisions of the Constitution, adding that the failure to convene the new Parliament within 3 months of the dissolution of the previous Parliament, makes the Gazette issued by the President invalid.

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

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