A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court, yesterday reserved its order, in the fundamental rights violation plea filed by the JHU, for Friday next. The JHU had claimed that the next Presidential Poll should be held in 2005 and not in 2006.
Elmore Perera, who appeared for the Elections Commissioner, Dayananda Dissanayake, told the Court that his client will not take any action on the issue till the Court gives a ruling on Friday.
It is a constitutional function for the Chief Justice to administer the oath of office to the Head of State, the President. It is nothing personel, the Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva told the Supreme Court yesterday.
The centre for policy Alternatives, said that it will not pursue the application for intervention, seeking a revision of the Bench, chaired by the Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva. The CPA had said in an intervention that the Chief Justice should not hear the petition filed by the Venerable Omalpe Sobitha Thera, claiming that the next Presidential Poll should be held in 2005 and not in 2006. The CPA had claimed that President Kumaratunga had taken oaths before Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva.
The Chief Justice warned the CPA to act with restraint. A lot of publicity had been given to the application by the CPA, creating a bad impression. The dignity of the Supreme Court must be safeguarded.
Counsel M. A. Sumanthiran said that he will not pursue the intervention. He will appear as Amicus Curiae on the interpretation of the Third amendment to the Constitution. The CPA was allowed to appear as Amicus only.
H. L. de Silva PC, appeared for the General Secretary of the SLFP, who sought to intervene, claiming that the next presidential poll should be held in 2006. He too was advised to appear as Amicus on the interpretation of the Constitution.
H. L. de Silva - The Reference made by the President should not be a non-existent one.
Chief Justice - So far it is in the hands of the Chief Justice. It may be considered in public or in camera. This question on the interpretition of the Constitution will cover that.
Chief Justice - The Court cannot give an opinion and a judgement together. We will give a judgement on the Thera`s application. It`s unnecessary to mix an opinion and a judgement. We avoid duplication.
Elmore Perera, counsel for the Respondent, the Elections Commissioner, said that, opinion should not be confused with a judgement.
The Court said that leave to proceed was granted on the question of interpretion of the Constitution, which is of general or public interest. No inteventions were allowed. Counsel were directed to be `Amicus` on interpretation of Constitution.
Manohara de Silva appeared for the petitioner, the Venerable Omalpe Sobitha Thera, the General Secretary of the JHU. He appeared with Udaya Gammanpila, instructed by D. W. Weeraratne.
Elmore Perera, appeared for the Commissioner of Elections, the first respondent.
H. L. de Silva PC, appeared as Amicus, in the interests of the General Secretary of the SLFP, Maithreepala Sirisena.
He said that asking for a new mandate after four years in office, does not ferminate the first term of office fixed for six years. The fermination occurs only if the contestant had been rejected by the people. President Kumaratunga won for a second time.
H. L. de Silva said that, she asked for a new mandate, while still in office. She was returned by the people for a second term.
The first term was gazetted on November 10, 1994. She was declared elected for a second term on December 22, 1999, while her first term was still to be completed. The relevant date corresponding to the date on November 10, 1994, is November 10, 2000. One term of office is six years. A President elected twice could hold office for twelve years.
M. A. Sumanthiran, appearing for the Centre for Policy Alternatives, said that a re-elected President need not assume office, within two weeks or so, after the declaration of the election. A newly elected President only need take the oath within the mandatory two-week period.
The Elections Commissioner, in this statement of objections to the petition filed by the Venerable Omalpe Sobitha Thera, had admitted that President Kumaratunga took oath of office on December 22, 1999 Elmore Perera, who appeared for the Elections Commissioner, explained that the next Presidential poll should be held in October/November 2005.
Manohara de Silva, counsel for the JHU petitioner to the same explanation.
He said that, President Kumaratunga and her government, conducted itself on the basis, that her term of office commenced on December 22, 1999. In 2000, a Bill was tabled in Parliament and clause 233(A) of the Bill specifically stated that the President shall hold office for a period of six years commencing, December 22, 1999.
Manohara de Silva explained that, having the Presidential election in 2005, instead of 2006, in fact enhances, the sovereignty of the people, when the President herself chose to cut short her first term of office.
The Attorney General, K. C. Kamalasabaysan PC, said that the Supreme Court should interpret as it is, Article 31/3A, (d), (1), of the Constitution of Sri Lanka, which refers to the commencement of a second term of office of any elected President.
The Bench comprised, the Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva, Justice C. N. Jayasinghe, Justice N. K. Udalagama, Justice N. E. Dissanayake and Justice Nimal Gamini Amaratunga.