Delivery of Divineguma ruling to House: Supreme Court erred - Speaker

‘A lethal deficiency that requires a simple cure’


By Saman Indrajith

Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa yesterday fired a salvo at the Supreme Court for not complying with the procedures laid out in the Constitution to be followed as regards Bills challenged in Court for their constitutionality.

The Speaker’s statement was made in agreement with all party leaders in Parliament on the manner in which the Supreme Court ruling on the Divi Neguma Bill was conveyed to Parliament. It was delivered to the Secretary General of Parliament and not the Speaker.

The Speaker said: "I make a decision on the 9th day of October 2012 that in terms of Article 121 (1) of the Constitution, a copy of a reference made by the President, or a petition by a citizen to the Supreme Court, shall at the same time be delivered to the Speaker and not the Secretary General of Parliament. Such delivery to the SG of Parliament shall not be treated by Parliament as due compliance with the terms of Article 121 (1) of the Constitution," the Speaker said in a landmark ruling.

The Supreme Court in its interpretation of the said Article in the Constitution stated, "Whilst the process of sending the petition filed in the Supreme Court within the specified period to the Speaker is mandatory, it cannot be said that the documents being sent to the Secretary General of Parliament within the stipulated time frame is not in compliance with Article 121 (1) of the Constitution."

The Speaker, in his statement, however differed with the opinion expressed by the Supreme Court saying that if the SG of Parliament was to be substituted for the Speaker, the Constitution would have to be amended accordingly, which was a matter for the Legislature.

"I am emphatic in my mind, having studied the matter carefully that the Supreme Court has erred in reading the unambiguous provisions relating to the Speaker in the Constitution, which if allowed to remain in its present form will cause irreparable impairment to procedure and practice of Parliament. It is a lethal deficiency that requires a simple cure," he said.

"The right to interpret the Constitution is the province solely of the Supreme Court that must not be disturbed and their learned decisions on interpretation must be treated with great respect. It is the interpretation of the Supreme Court that must stand. However, since this could affect the rights of the citizen, it is my desire to bring to the notice of the Supreme Court, the complications arising from their determination and request citizens desirous of challenging Bills, to be vigilant, in view of that determination, and ensure that the copy of the petition reaches the Speaker without any delay to enable the proceedings on the Bill to be stayed. I should not make any ruling on this matter in following the Constitution, as it a territory that is the exclusive preserve of the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court is requested to give earnest consideration on a revisit to make a vested right of a citizen comprehensively effective as intended in the Constitution mindful of the procedures of Parliament.

"The Chapters X and XI of the Constitution, dealing with the Legislature, have been drafted by the framers of our Constitution with care and caution, safeguarding the supremacy of Parliament and when it comes to interpreting such provisions, it must be done mindful of the practices and procedures, customs and conventions which are part and parcel of our parliamentary system. Otherwise, it would disturb the working of Parliament. More so, as the chamber of People’s representatives, we cannot forefeit or forego any rights conferred to the people by the Constitution. We must be grateful to the makers of the Constitution for safeguarding the concept of the Supremacy of Parliament.

"It is necessary, as well, to rectify a bona fide error made by the Supreme Court. There appears to be some confusion relating to the parties in the determination and it is desirable to have the record placed in its proper perspective.

"I direct the Secretary General of Parliament to send a copy of this decision to His Excellency the President and to the Hon. judges of the Supreme Court. The public will have notice of this decision on its being published in the Hansard and in the Parliamentary webpage <> and from the media. In addition it will be judicially noticed in terms of Section 9 of Parliament (Powers and Privileges) Act."

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