Commencement of Presidentís second term:
SC opinion today
*AG says Nov 19, 2010 due date
*Other counsel say Nov 19, 2011
A Bench of seven Supreme Court judges will today communicate its
opinion on the commencement of the second term of President Mahinda
Rajapaksa after his re-election to office. President Mahinda Rajapaksa
yesterday consulted the Supreme Court under Article 129 of the
Constitution for its opinion on the commencement of the second term in
office. In terms of the Constitution the opinion of the Court should be
communicated to the President within 24 hours.
From the Constitution
|* 129. (1) If
at any time it appears to the President of the Republic that a
question of law or fact has arisen or is likely to arise which
is of such nature and of such public importance that it is
expedient to obtain the opinion of the Supreme Court upon it, he
may refer that question to that Court for consideration and the
Court may, after such hearing as it thinks fit, within the
period specified in such reference or within such time as may be
extended by the President, report to the President its opinion
* 31 (d) The person declared
elected as President at an election held ............. shall, if
such person Ė
(i) is the President in office,
hold office for a term of six years commencing on such date in
the year in which that election is held (being a date after such
election) or in the succeeding year, as corresponds to the date
on which his first term of office commenced, whichever date is
earlier ; or Consultative jurisdiction.
The Bench comprised Chief Justice Asoka de Silva, Justice Dr. Shirani
Bandaranayake, Justice Jagath Balapatabendi, Justice K. Sripavan,
Justice P.A. Rathnayake PC, Justice Chandra Ekanayake and Justice S.I.
Attorney General Mohan Peiris PC submitted that in terms of the
Articles 31 of the Constitution, the second term of President Mahinda
Rajapaksa should commence on November 19, this year.
He submitted that President Rajapaksa was first elected to the office
in November 19, 2005 and he could seek the mandate for the second term
after the completion of four years in office and now he has been
re-elected for another six years. He submitted that according to the
third amendment to the Constitution brought in during the regime of
former President J.R. Jayewardene, in case of the incumbent President
being re-elected for the second term, his/her term should begin in the
current or succeeding year which ever comes earlier , corresponding to
the date on which he was first elected to the office.
The AG submitted that in case one of incumbent Presidentís
challengers is elected, his/her term would commence on the day on which
the polls was held.
Presidentís Counsel Nihal Jayamanne on behalf of Presidential
candidate Sarath Kongahage who was permitted to intervene, submitted
that the second term of the President should begin on November 19, 2011.
He argued that it was the people who elected the President to office
and the President is under the constitutional duty to function until the
termination of the full six-year term. ďEven the President himself could
not curtail the mandate of the people to function for a full term,Ē he
Presidentís Counsel D.S. Wijesinghe in his intervention on behalf of
Prof. Mendis Rohanadeera submitted that the second term of the President
should commence on November 19, 2011.
Counsel Wijesinghe invited the court to consider the basic values of
the Constitution i.e. people are sovereign and the mandate of the people
given the President to function for the full term of six years should
not be any way curtailed.
Colombo University Lecturer Rohan Edrisinha appearing in person
submitted that in terms of the third amendment to the Constitution
effected by former President J.R. Jayewardene, it was clear that the
Presidentís second term should begin on November 19, this year. He
however, submitted that according to the international and best
democratic practices the Presidentís term should commence as soon as the
conclusion of the election.
He also invited the court to accept or overrule certain Supreme Court
judgments that held the commencement of the office of a President for
the second term should commence right after his/her election, in the
interest of the law students. He also requested the court to make
available subsequently the court opinion to the public.
The Court rejected an application by Counsel Chrismal Warnasuriya on
behalf of the JVP, to tender written submissions addressing their
concerns. The court noted there was hardly any time since the court
should forward the decision to the President within 24 hours.