Centre for Policy Alternatives on 2 November, 2008

The Centre for Policy Alternatives Vs. Attorney General (SC Ref: No.1/2008)

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This was an instance where the President made a reference under Article 129(1) of the Sri Lankan Constitution on whether;

1) The legal provisions enacted to give statutory recognition to the rights contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) adhere to the general premise of the Covenant and whether individuals within the territory of Sri Lanka would derive the benefit and guarantee of rights as contained in the ICCPR through the medium of the legal and constitutional processes prevailing in Sri Lanka.

2) Whether the rights recognised in the ICCPR are justiciable through the medium of legal and constitutional process prevailing in Sri Lanka.

This reference was made during a time where there was considerable international pressure placed on Sri Lanka in the wake of an earlier ruling by the Supreme Court (Nallaratnam Singarasa V. Attorney General S.C. Spl(LA) No. 182/99) that ratifying the Optional protocol to the ICCPR -which gave the Human Rights Committee the ability to receive complaints (individual communications) from Sri Lankans- was a violation of the Sovereignty of the people of Sri Lanka. The Centre for Policy Alternatives intervened as an “intervenient petitioner” in this case and made submissions to the effect that many of the rights guaranteed in the ICCPR are not protected in the Sri Lankan legal system and even the rights which are protected are subject to restrictions which are not permissible under the ICCPR.

In a decision by a bench consisting of five Judges of the Supreme Court, the Court held that both questions directed to it by the President – by communication dated 4th March 2008 –  should be answered in the affirmative.