Attorney General Jayantha Jayasuriya yesterday contended that incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena can continue his term of office as President for 6 years.
The Attorney General appearing with Additional Solicitor General Murdu Fernando and Deputy Solicitor General Nerin Pulle submitted that the incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena has sought the opinion of the Supreme Court whether there is any impediment to him to continue his terms of office for 6 years as President as amended in the amended Article 31 of the 19th Amendment.
He stated that the Presidential election was held on 8th January 2015 and incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena was elected and assumed duty on 9th January 2015.
He stated the date on which he was elected is 9th January 2015 for the term of office for 6 years.
He submitted that the incumbent President was elected by the people for the office to the term of 6 years. It is the sovereignty of the people who exercise their franchise to elect him as President. The power emanated from the franchise of the people. The commencement of his office should be considered from the date on which he is elected.
He said it is the Constitutional structure where the incumbent President was elected. The 19th Amendment to the Constitution is operative after the incumbent President was elected for a term of 6 years by the people.
He continued that therefore the issue is whether the Article 3 and 4 of the 19th Amendment made operative where the term of office has already commenced.
He said there cannot be retrospective effect unless it has been specified or implied in any provision and there is no applicable provision retrospectively in the amendment.
He said that according to Article 49(1)(a) and (b) stating that for the avoidance of doubt it is hereby declared that (a) the 7th Parliament in existence on the day preceding the date on which this Act comes into operation, shall, unless dissolved earlier, continue to function until April 21, 2016 and shall thereafter stand dissolved.
He said that Article 49(1)(b) states the persons holding office respectively, as the President and Prime Minister on the day preceding April 22, 2015 shall continue to hold such office after such date, subject to the provisions of the Constitution as amended by this Act.
He maintained that the mandate of the people to be a term of office for 6 years on which he assumed duty. He contended that any change would affect and alienate the sovereignty of the people.
Saliya Peiris PC appearing for the intervenient petitioner Ven. Ulapane Sumangala Thera and Faisz Musthapha PC appearing for the Intervenient Petitioner SLFP General Secretary Duminda Dissanayake made similar submissions.
A Panel of five judges of the Supreme Court took up the reference to make a decision on the ambiguity over the question of the tenure of office for the incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena as President.
The Bench of Chief Justice Priyasath Dep, Justices Eva Wanasundera, B.P.Aluvihara, Sisira J De Abrew and K.T.Chitrasiri were nominated for the opinion of the Supreme Court on this matter in respect of the ambiguity arising after the enactment of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
President Maithripala Sirisena has referred the matter to the Supreme Court for its consideration in terms of Article 129(1) of the Constitution.
He has sought the opinion of the Supreme Court that whether, in terms of Provisions of the Constitution, he, as the person elected and succeeding to the office of President and having assumed such office in terms of Article 32(1) of the Constitution on 9th January 2015, has any impediment to continue in the office of President for a period of 6 years from 9th January 2015, the date on which the result of his election to the office of President was declared.
President invoked the Consultative jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under article 129. (1) If at any time it appears to the President of the Republic that a question of law or fact has arisen or is likely to arise which is of such nature and of such public importance that it is expedient to obtain the opinion of the Supreme Court upon it, he may refer that question to that Court for consideration and the Court may, after such hearing as it thinks fit, within the period specified in such reference or within such time as may be extended by the President, report to the President its opinion thereon.