ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court has determined that a controversial ‘Online Safety Bill’ is not inconsistent with the constitution and can be passed in parliament by a simple majority subject to amendments made to 31 of its provisions.
Deputy Speaker Ajith Rajapakse reading the Supreme Court determination said that, if sections 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 36, 37, 42, 45, 53 and 56 of the bill are amended at the committee stage, it can be passed with a simple parliamentary majority.
Otherwise, the aforesaid provisions of the draft bill must be passed by a special majority in parliament, according to the court’s determination, as per Section 84(2) of the constitution.
The bill was challenged in the Supreme Court in terms of Section 121(1) of the constitution.
“Subject to the above, the bill or any of its clauses, are not inconsistent with the constitution. Thereby the Supreme Court’s determination is that, subject to the above amendments, it can be passed with simple majority,” said Deputy Speaker Rajapakse.
Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella speaking after Rajapakse’s reading of the ruling chastised the government for presenting the bill in a hurry.
“I don’t know if this bill was discussed adequately with the oversight committee or with civil society. It was brought in a hurry. Now there’s more than 50 amendments. When we joined parliament, only one or two clauses of a bill would have to be amended. This one is like a factory,” said Kiriella.
In early October, the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the controversial bill.
The bill was gazetted on September 15 and tabled in parliament October 03. CPA had previously urged that the government withdraw the bill which the organisation said is fundamentally flawed and riddled with potential for abuse.
The petitioners, CPA and its executive director Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, argued that the bill as a whole violates several articles of the constitution including entrenched provisions and would thus be required to approved by the people at a referendum in addition to being passed by two thirds parliament voting in favour. (Colombo/Nov07/2023)