By Colombo Telegraph –
An interesting constitutional issue has arisen consequent to the determination of the Supreme Court in the matter of the Divineguma Bill. The Supreme Court has ruled that as the Northern Provincial Council has not been constituted, it was not possible for the Bill to have been sent to the Northern Provincial Council for the expression of its views. However, the Court has also ruled that the Governor of the Northern Province could not have expressed a view on behalf of the Northern Provincial Council. As such, the Court has determined that the Bill must be proceeded with on the basis that the Northern Provincial Council has not agreed to the passing of the Bill.
Article 154 G (3) of the Constitution states as follows:
“(3) No Bill in respect of any matter set out in the Provincial Council List shall become law unless such Bill has been referred by the President , after its publication in the Gazette and before it is placed in the Order Paper of Parliament, to every Provincial Council for the expression of its views thereon, within such period as may be specified in the reference, and – where every such Council agrees to the passing of the Bill, such Bill is passed by a majority of the Members of Parliament present and voting ; or where one or more Councils do not agree to the passing of the Bill, such Bill is passed by the special majority required by Article 82:
Provided that where such reference, some but not all the Provincial Councils agree to passing of a Bill, such Bill shall become law applicable only to the Provinces for which the Provincial Councils agreeing to the Bill have been established, upon such Bill being passed by a majority of the Members of Parliament present and voting.”
The Supreme Court has stated that the only workable interpretation that could be given is that since the views of one Provincial Council cannot be obtained, the Bill should be passed by a two-thirds majority, considering the provisions of Article 154 G (3).
A constitutional expert contacted by Colombo Telegraph stated that if the Bill is not passed by 2/3 majority but only by a simple majority, the law will not apply to the Northern Province.
The above likely scenario was raised by Colombo Telegraph last week. Pro-devolution parties in the Government such as the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, Lanka Sama Samaja Party, Communist Party, Democratic Left Front of Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara, CWC and EPDP as well as MPs such as Rajitha Senaratne, John Seneviratne and Dilan Perera will now have to decide whether to provide a 2/3 majority to impose the Divineguma Bill on the Northern Province when the people of the Northern Province have not been consulted. Political observers expect the CWC, EPDP and pro-devolution MPs of the SLFP to go along with the Government. However, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and the Left parties will find it extremely difficult to do so.