Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court on Friday formed a bench comprising five judges to hear an application for a legal opinion filed by the country’s president.
Jayantha Jayasuriya, chief justice of the court, will head the bench that has been asked to determine whether it is lawful for provincial council elections to be held in the absence of delimitation, a redrawing of the boundaries of electoral districts. The application will be taken up on August 23, and a legal opinion on the matter is to be sent to the president before August 30.
The move comes in the wake of reports that President Maithripala Sirisena wants to hold provincial council elections before the presidential elections. The president is of the opinion that holding provincial elections first will provide a clear indication of the outcome of the presidential election, which is scheduled for November and December.
Sirisena’s application invoked the Supreme Court’s consultative jurisdiction under Article 129 of Sri Lanka’s constitution. Clause 1 of Article 129 states, “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.”
Delimitation has been a controversial political issue in Sri Lanka. The Delimitation Committee (DC) report demarcating provincial boundaries was forwarded to parliament for debate and voting in March 2018. The recommendations of the report were abandoned after being rejected by parliament.