FR petition filed against Gazette declaring General Election on June 20

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A Fundamental Rights (FR) petition has been filed with the Supreme Court seeking an order invalidating the Extraordinary Gazette notification declaring the General Election on June 20.

Attorney-at-Law Charitha Gunaratne filed the petition claiming that the Gazette notification in question is unconstitutional.

Chairman of the Election Commission Mahinda Deshapriya, its members President’s Counsel N.J. Abeysekara and Prof.S. Rathnajeevan H.Hoole, Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundara, Director General of Health Services Dr. Anil Jasinghe and the Attorney General have been named as the respondents of the petition.

As stated in Article 70(5)(a), 70(5)(b) and 70(5)(c) of the Constitution, mandatory provisions have been provided to fix a date or dates for the election of Members of Parliament and convene the new Parliament not later than 3 months from the date of proclamation of the dissolution of Parliament. Hence, the election date could not be later than the 2nd of June, the petitioner argues.

Holding the election on a date exceeding June 02 is unconstitutional, the petitioner points out, adding that the mandatory provisions have provided that a date for the election should be fixed within a period not less than 5 weeks and not more than 7 weeks from the closing date of accepting nominations.

Accordingly, the Election Commission is legally bound to hold the election before June 13, the petitioner says.

In addition, the outbreak of COVID-19 virus has created an unsafe environment in the country, and risk groups are mandated to undergo quarantine process for 14-21 days, he added. Under these circumstances, a free and fair election cannot be held in the country, the petitioner stressed.

Hence, the Extraordinary Gazette notification published by the Election Commission, declaring the General Election on June 20, has violated fundamental human rights, he said further.

In addition, the petitioner has sought the Supreme Court to issue an interim order preventing the General Election from being held until a verdict on the petition is delivered.