Speaker rejects court notices

Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa making a landmark ruling a short while ago regarding the on-going court proceedings challenging the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) regarding the impeachment motion ruled that no external institution can notice, order or direct Parliament.

“The purported notices issued to me and members of the select committee are unreservedly rejected and they have no effect whatsoever and are not recognised in any manner,” the Speaker said.

Delivering his ruling, the Speaker said the notices issued by the Court of Appeal on the directions of the Supreme Court had no effect and were not recognized in any manner.

“I wish to make it clear that this ruling of mine as Speaker of Parliament will apply to any similar purported notice, order or determination in respect of the proceedings of the committee which will continue  solely and exclusively under the authority of Parliament,”  the Speaker said in his ruling.

Referring to the appointment of the select committee, he said that he acted as the Speaker in pursuance of the powers vested in him by Article 107 of the Constitution.

 “The members of the committee appointed by me are responsible solely and exclusively to me as the Speaker. No person or institution outside Parliament has any authority whatsoever to issue any directive either to me as Speaker or to the members of the select committee. This is a matter which falls exclusively within the purview of Parliament’s authority,” he said.

The Speaker’s ruling followed a question of privilege raised by House Leader and Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva earlier in the day against notices issued by court.

Raising the privilege issue, the minister said seven writ applications had been filed by various parties in the Court of Appeal against the select committee citing its 11 members and the Speaker as respondents.   The interpretation regarding article 107(3) of the constitution arising from the writ applications have been referred to the Supreme Court.

The Leader of the House who is also a member of the select committee said the members and the Speaker had been noticed by court. He said the petitioners had sought court orders through writ applications to suspend the activities of the select committee, and to declare the Speaker’s order to appoint the committee null and void.

Mr. de Silva stressed that Parliament had adopted a procedure to remove the Chief Justice from her office in terms of the Constitution and Standing Orders, and the Speaker’s action in this regard could not be challenged outside the parliamentary process. Also, he noted that the select committee that probing allegations against the Chief Justice should follow directions made by Parliament or for that matter by the Speaker only.

Noting that the Speaker is the custodian of the rights of Parliament, he said that Members of Parliament had the responsibility to prevent external forces making inroads into the Legislature.  The Leader of the House referred to a ruling given by late Speaker Anura Bandaranaike on June 20, 2001 which upheld legislative supremacy. In that ruling, Mr. Bandaranaike said that the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction to give restraining orders against Parliament.
Shortly after his statement, the members across the floor made their submissions.  Chief Opposition Whip John Amaratunga who rose to his  feet said that the select committee had no judicial power. He said that though the parliamentary supremacy could not be compromised at any cost, the select committee was only an investigative body.

 “The select committee can only report its findings to Parliament. Then, the House can decide on it.  This is a very serious situation.   We ask the Speaker to give an independent ruling.   You will make history by giving a ruling on this matter,” Mr. Amaratunga told the Speaker.

His views were widely underscored by UNP MPs Sujeewa Senasinghe, Ravi Karunanayake, Dayasiri Jayasekara, Joseph Michael Perera, Sajith Premadasa and D.M.Swaminathan.  However, UNP MP R. Yogarajan said the Judiciary, the Executive and the Legislature are not subservient to each other. He said that courts could not be disregarded on this issue, and the MPs who had been noticed should make their submissions to court.

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP M.A. Sumanthiran said late Prime Minister Sirimawo Bandaranaike and present Chief Government Whip Dinesh Gunawardane went to Court in 1987 against the 13th Amendment, and sought legal intervention against parliamentary proceedings.  He also said that the interpretation of the Constitution is the sole and exclusive jurisdiction of the judiciary, and therefore, the Supreme Court issuing notices does not warrant a privilege issue in Parliament.

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