|Friday, 5 September 2003|
by Wasantha Ramanayake
Court of Appeal yesterday directed the petitioner's counsel to issue notice on the respondents within three days and support the writ application seeking a court order compelling the President to appoint the Chairperson and four members to the Elections Commission.
Justice K. Sripavan presided.
The court directed to issue notice on the 1-13 respondents excluding the President. Petitioners Public Interest Law Foundation and Udayanthi Ramanika Senevirathne cited Attorney General, President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Speaker Joseph Michael Perera, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapakse, Chairman and the six members of the Constitutional Council, its Secretary Dhammika Kithulgoda, Retired Supreme Court Judge R. M. N. Dheeraratne, Dr. A. N. Chandrahasan, Mrs. N. Nilaweera, Elmore Perera and S. A. C. Zuhair as respondents.
Petitioners stated that the 17th Amendment to the Constitution was enacted by the Parliament in October 2001, to establish the Independent Elections Commission, Public Service Commission and the National Police Commission.
According to the petitioners, the amendment inevitably did away with the discretionary power of the President to appoint the chairpersons and the members of the said commissions. He stated that in terms of Article 41 1(B) of the Constitution introduced by the 17th Amendment the Chairpersons and the members of the said Commissions were appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Constitutional Council. The President had no discretion but formally appoints the nominees recommended by the Constitutional Council to the said commissions.
Petitioner stated that the Constitutional Council called for applications for the nominations for the Chairperson and the Members of the Elections Commission under the said Article.
Then the Council nominated the 14th respondent retired Supreme Court Judge as the Chairperson and the 15th - 18th respondents as the Members of the Elections Commission and conveyed their recommendations to the President.
Petitioners alleged that the President had refused to appoint the said nominees to the Elections Commission. Her refusal to appoint the 14th respondent as the Chairperson of the said commission was on the grounds that 14th respondent "was not capable of acting independently and impartially." Petitioner claimed that the 14th respondent was a highly respected retired Judge of the Supreme Court and that media reported it as a baseless allegation made by the President.
They also claimed that the recommendation of the Constitutional Council to appoint the 14th respondent as the Chairman of the Elections Commission was unanimous.
Petitioners contended that there was no provision in law authorising the Constitutional Council to reconsider its decision and it had exhausted its power under Article 41 1(B). They further contended that if the Elections Commission was not appointed it would adversely affect the Provincial Councils Elections to be held in the future.
J. C. Weliamuna with Shantha Jayawardane appeared for petitioners.
The application was fixed for support for September 19.
Produced by Lake House