By Sandun A Jayasekera
The Lawyers for Democracy, a professional organisation of lawyers yesterday expressed their concern for the failure of the President to summon Parliament under Article 70 (7) of the constitution.
Senior lawyer, Lal Wijenayake in a communiqué said the ‘Lawyers for Democracy’ (LFD) views with deep concern the failure of the President to summon Parliament under Article 70(7) of the constitution.
“Lawyers for Democracy” calls upon the President to summon the Parliament to meet on a date after June 20th and thereby uphold the constitution and avoid a constitutional crisis
“Article 70(7) of the constitution clearly sets out that at any time after the dissolution of Parliament the President is satisfied that an emergency has arisen of such a nature that an earlier meeting of Parliament is necessary the President can by a proclamation summon the Parliament which was dissolved and thereafter such Parliament will stand dissolved upon the termination of the emergency or the conclusion of the General Election whichever is earlier,” he stressed.
Undoubtedly an emergency has arisen firstly, for the reason of the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the economy and the administration of the country, and secondly due to the fact that the General Election had to be postponed to a date after the date stipulated in the proclamation dissolving the Parliament dated March 2nd, 2020. Our country has not faced such a serious emergency situation during our life time, Mr. Wijenayake said.
It is true that Article 70(7) has vested the discretion on the President. But under our law there is no absolute or unfetted discretion and any discretion vested in an authority cannot be used arbitrarily. Under our law discretion is vested in a public authority with the trust that the public authority will use the discretion in the interest of the public to uphold the purpose for which such discretion is vested in the public authority in trust.
“Lawyers for Democracy” is of the view that a constitutional crisis can be averted by summoning the Parliament under Article 70(7),” he added.
Further it is plainly clear that the President is vested with the power to dissolve Parliament after 4 ½ of its five year term under Article 70(1) only on the condition under Article 70(5)(a) that the proclamation dissolving Parliament shall summon the new Parliament to meet on a date not later than 3 months after the date of such proclamation. Since the Election Commission under unavoidable and unforeseen circumstances has postponed the General Election to the June 20th, the proclamation of March 2nd, 2020 dissolving Parliament and fixing the date of the sitting of new Parliament before the expiry of 3 months after dissolution, that is, before June 2nd, 2020 cannot be a reality therefore the proclamation of March 2nd, 2020 dissolving Parliament is not valid and the proclamation of March 2nd has to be treated as null and void, the LFD further said.
Therefore, “Lawyers for Democracy” calls upon the President to summon the Parliament by a proclamation under Article 70(7) of the constitution and to summon the new Parliament to meet on a date after June 20th and thereby uphold the constitution and avoid a constitutional crisis, Mr. Wijenayake emphasized.