In a major blow to Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena, the country’s Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously ruled that the dissolution of Parliament was "illegal".
The Supreme Court’s seven-member bench said that the President cannot dissolve Parliament till it completes its 4 1/2 year term. "I make order that the November 9 Gazette notification sacking the Parliament has no force or effect in law and declare its operation illegal," Chief Justice Nalin Perera read aloud as he delivered the landmark judgement to a packed courtroom.
The Supreme Court undertook the case as more than a dozen petitions were filed before it against Sirisena's November 9 order sacking the Parliament, almost 20 months before its term was to end.
The bench which was initially constituted of three justices was then extended to seven who then had marathon sessions over four days last week to hear the case.
The decision comes as a big boost to sacked prime minister Ranil Wickremeshinghe. His sacking and the consequent dissolution of Parliament has thrust Sri Lanka into a major political crisis. Reacting to the apex court's ruling, sacked Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said, "We trust that the President will promptly respect the judgment of the courts. "The legislature, judiciary, and the executive are equally important pillars of a democracy and the checks and balances that they provide are crucial to ensuring the sovereignty of its citizens," he tweeted.
We trust that the President will promptly respect the judgment of the courts. The legislature, judiciary, and the executive are equally important pillars of a democracy and the checks and balances that they provide are crucial to ensuring the sovereignty of its citizens.
— Ranil Wickremesinghe (@RW_UNP) December 13, 2018
There was no immediate comment from either Sirisena or his new prime minister appointee Mahinda Rajapaksa. Sirisena has previously said that he has always taken decisions in the best interest of the country and the people. He had also said that he will honour the court's decision.
"I look forward to the constitutional interpretation of the Supreme Court. Whatever it may be, I will take future political decisions accordingly, to the best interest of our motherland, not to the benefit of any person, group or party," the President tweeted on December 9.
The apex court's decision puts the ball in Sirisena's court after he failed in his attempt to see Rajapaksa gain a majority in the Parliament in order to make concrete the ouster of Wickremesinghe.
Wickremeshinghe has already proved his majority in the Parliament in a voice vote unlike Rajapaksa but Sirisena and Rajapaksa’s party MPs have refused to allow the Parliament to function. They have resorted to violence and brawling to ensure that there could not be a counting of the votes. Prior to the crisis, Wickremesinghe had the backing of 106 parliamentarians while Rajapaksa and Sirisena combine had the backing of 95 lawmakers.
The Supreme Court’s order means that the president cannot call a snap general election at least until February 2020. The current parliament could still call for a snap poll with a resolution passed with two thirds majority. (With PTI inputs)