Sri Lanka Opposition challenges new Bill in SC

Six petitions were filed in top court against the 20th Amendment legislation.

September 23, 2020 10:58 pm | Updated 10:58 pm IST - COLOMBO:

TNA - R. Sampanthan

TNA - R. Sampanthan

A day after the Sri Lankan government tabled the contentious 20th Amendment Bill, Opposition parties, including the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB, or United People’s Front) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), moved the Supreme Court challenging it.

At least six petitions, including those of the SJB and the TNA, were filed on Wednesday, following the Opposition’s protest in the legislature against the move. “We have filed a petition on the basis that the 20th Amendment Bill adversely impacts the sovereignty of the people. The legislature and judiciary are sought to be made subservient to the executive. That is not acceptable,” TNA leader R. Sampanthan told The Hindu .

“Each arm of the government should be able to function independently, without undermining each other,” he added.

Leader of Opposition and SJB leader Sajith Premadasa earlier said tabling the Bill marked a “dark day for democracy”.

'Referendum needed'

The thrust of the petitions, according to legal sources, is that the 20th Amendment Bill cannot be enacted without a national referendum since it impacts the “sovereignty of the people”.

The Attorney General earlier ruled out the need for a referendum and said it could be passed with a two-thirds majority in Parliament. The government secured a comfortable two-thirds with its allies following the August general election.

In introducing the 20th Amendment Bill, the government, led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, is seeking to keep its poll promise to repeal the 19th Amendment, introduced by the former government in 2015, that clipped the President’s executive powers, while empowering Parliament.

Reversing the 19th Amendment, its replacement envisions a more powerful executive, even as it reduces the Prime Minister’s role to a ceremonial one, legal experts here have remarked.

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