Supreme Court rules Divineguma Bill needs referendum

By Saman Indrajith

The Supreme Court has ruled that the authority given to the Minister in charge of the Divineguma Department, to determine administrative zones for implementation of the Divineguma Bill is inconsistent with Article 3 of the Constitution and would require the approval of people at a referendum, unless it is amended to give that appointing authority to the Cabinet of Ministers.

"If the Zonal Heads of the Department are to be appointed by the Cabinet of Ministers, such appointments would not be contrary to Article 3 of the Constitution and therefore would not require the approval of the people at a referendum," the Court said in its determination on the Divineguma Bill which was announced by Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa in Parliament yesterday.

With regards to several other clauses in the Bill, the Supreme Court has said they will require a two-thirds majority to obtain approval in the House.

The Supreme Court determination, signed by Chief Justice Dr. Shirani A. Banadaranayke, Judges of the Supreme Court N. G. Amaratunga and K. Siripavan has said: "We are of the view that no Government Department be allowed to maintain funds of their own. In order to ensure transparency and accountability the monies received must be deposited in the Consolidated Fund in terms of Article 148 and all withdrawals from such funds could only be permitted in terms of Article 150."

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