The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and its Executive Director, Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu filed a Fundamental Rights application challenging the decision of the President to dissolve Parliament on 2ndMarch 2020 and the decision of the Elections Commission to reschedule elections to 20th June 2020.
The Petition states that Articles 70 and 33(2)(c) of the Constitution permit the President to dissolve Parliament prior to the completion of its five-year term, after the passage of four and a half years from its first sitting. The President used this power to dissolve the Eighth Parliament on the 2nd of March 2020 by Gazette Extraordinary no. 2165/8 and fixed the 25th of April 2020 as the date for election of the Ninth Parliament, it states.
It points out that this was despite the fact that the Covid-19 pandemic was spreading across the world, and Sri Lanka too was taking steps to combat it.
The declaration of Covid-19 as a pandemic, and its rapid spread resulted in the Election Commission making a decision to postpone the election. Thereafter, on 20th of April 2020, the Commission issued Gazette Extraordinary no. 2172/3 fixing the election for the 20th of June 2020, it adds. The Gazette by which the 8th Parliament was dissolved fixed the date for the first meeting of the 9th Parliament for the 2nd June, 2020, it states. It contends that while the said Gazette remains in place, a new date for the election of the Ninth Parliament cannot be fixed beyond the 2nd June 2020.
It maintains it is impossible to hold a free and fair election in the context of the Covid-19 crisis and that it would be difficult for election officers and voters to maintain social distancing during the election and the preparation for the same, which would increase the risk of the spread of the virus. As such there is a likelihood that elections could be further postponed beyond the 20th June. The lack of a functioning Parliament for more than three months undermines the sovereignty of the people and undermines the rule of law, it underlines.
It seeks the Supreme Court to declare that fundamental rights have been violated.