Three Private Member’s Bills titled “Municipal Councils (Amendment) Act”, “Urban Councils (Amendment) Act” and “Pradeshiya Sabha (Amendment) Act” were presented to Parliament/ placed on the Order Paper of Parliament on 05th July 2023 as Private Members Bills.
The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and its Executive Director filed three Petitions on 14th July 2023 in the Supreme Court, seeking determinations by the Supreme Court that the Bills can only be passed in Parliament with a special majority (2/3rds of the Members of Parliament) and with the approval of the people at a referendum.
All three Bills, if passed into law, would allow the relevant Minister to extend the period of any or all Pradeshiya Sabhas, Urban Councils or Municipal Councils as the case may be, for a period as decided at the Minister’s discretion thereby postponing the holding of an election, on the basis that ‘a crisis’ has arisen.
The Petitioners argued that these Bills would have the effect of allowing the relevant Minister, to postpone elections for Pradeshiya Sabhas, Urban Councils or Municipal Councils on vague and unspecified grounds for an unspecified period of time. As such the Petitioners contend that the Bills are inconsistent with and/or violate several provisions of the Constitution, in particular, Articles 3, 4, 10, 12(1), 12(2) and 14(1)(a) of the Constitution.
The Petitioners also contend that the abovementioned Bills have been introduced, in the context where public officials and those holding high political office are intentionally and collusively acting in a manner to postpone the due holding of local government elections. The Petitioners’ had already filed a Fundamental Rights case [SC FR 79/2023] challenging these actions and that case is scheduled to be taken up before five judges of the Supreme Court on the 24th of July 2023.
CPA and its Executive Director challenged a similar attempt in 2017, when the then government attempted to introduce a constitutional amendment to delay Provincial Council elections.