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“Leaked” Supreme Court determination on 20A “disappointing,” say lawyers

Opposition Members protest the 20A in Parliament

ECONOMYNEXT – In an unprecedented event, a document purporting to be the determination of the Supreme Court on the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution is available on the internet and has appeared on several news sites since this afternoon.

The determination, a document which contains the decision of the Supreme Court in response to 39 petitions filed by political parties, human rights activists, the Bar Council and other groups, was sent to the office of the Speaker of Parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardene on Friday.

The Speaker was to announce the determination to Parliament at its next session on October 20, and Parliamentary sources say there is some consternation about the supposed leak, but they would not confirm whether it is the genuine document.

Several Constitutional lawyers EconomyNext interviewed said on condition of anonymity that the document “seems to be genuine.”

Lawyers who opposed the 20A say the determination in the leaked document if genuine “is disappointing.” Many of them had hoped the SC would compel the government to seek approval through a referendum, but according to this document, most of the proposals made in the 20A can be approved through a two-thirds majority in Parliament which the government has.

Opposition political parties were hoping for a referendum through which they could have built a broad anti-government coalition.

Constitutionalist Dr Asanga Welikala in a response on Twitter this evening said:

“Predictably disappointing determination by the Sri Lankan Supreme Court on the 20th Amendment Bill. All clauses deemed impinging on entrenched provisions will avoid a referendum on basis of committee-stage amendments (and one if amended according to the Court’s suggestion).”

He went on to say that the determination “reads like a verbose attempt to show the Court is checking the executive by finding fault with some aspects of the Bill but in the end permits the executive to get away with committee-stage amendments or minor alterations.”

“There is no serious analysis or indeed understanding of the ways in which the Bill affects popular sovereignty and constitutional government. The findings on the removal of PM’s advice and expansion of the dissolution power are especially shallow,” he added

“The government has been given the judicial go-ahead to pass a superficially revised version of the Bill without a referendum. The revisions required by the Court will in no way ameliorate the harm that the constitutional amendment will do to constitutional democracy” Welikala who the Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Constitutional Law said. (Colombo, October 10, 2020)’

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana

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