President’s Counsel Romesh De Silva appearing for Secretary to the President Dr. P.B. Jayasundera on Thursday (21) told a five judge bench of the Supreme Court that the opposition parties had “betrayed” parliament when they sent the President a joint undertaking that offered to cooperate with Government efforts to fight Covid-19 and pledged not to overthrow the Government.
De Silva PC asked: “What is the use of a Parliament which cannot fulfill its functions, including that?”
The Counsel for Jayasundera accused opposition parties of trying to “do a deal” with the Government to get various perks as parliamentarians.
During his submissions which continued for the full day of hearings on the eight FR cases currently being examined by the Supreme Court on the issue of reconvening Parliament, De Silva PC also asserted that the President has the power to withdraw monies from the Consolidated Fund – “full stop”.
The submission was in response to the argument by petitioners that it was Parliament that had the full control over public finance and the President could not authorize capital expenditure or any other monies to be drawn from the Treasury without the sanction of Parliament.
The Vote on Account passed by Parliament expired on April 30th, and all monies withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund since that date, except the monies drawn for the expenses of the Public Service were drawn illegally the petitioners have argued.
He further added that the Parliamentary Election Act gave the Elections Commission the right to postpone elections. “This can be for 3 months or six months or 11 months,” said the lawyer for the President’s Secretary.
Petitioners however argued before court that an election cannot be delayed beyond three months after Parliament is dissolved by the President, in accordance with Article 70 of the constitution.
However De Silva PC submitted that the term of Parliament ends on expiry of five years or dissolution. He submitted that the President has other duties such as giving election date and summoning new parliament. However, he argued that even if those duties were not performed, the dissolution of Parliament would still remain valid.
In any event, De Silva PC said, these actions were performed on 2nd March 2020. No challenges were brought within a month from March 2nd therefore the FR petitions are time-barred.
Hearings will resume on Friday, May 22, 2020 at 10AM in the Supreme Court.