BASL says President and Govt must not interfere with independent functions of EC

Issuing a statement the Bar Association of Sri Lanka said the decision to direct all District Secretaries to refrain from accepting deposits from candidates for the Local Authorities election could result in the nomination process to the local authorities being brought to a standstill thus effectively overturning the decision of the Returning Officers and the Elections Commission to receive nominations and thereafter to conduct elections to the Local Authorities in the country.

The BASL recalling the case of Waruna Karunathileke and another v Dayananda Dissanayake 1999 said the Supreme Court held in the case that the exercise of the franchise by the people is a Fundamental Right which must be protected.

“Fundamental rights and Franchise are two important aspects of the sovereignty of the people of Sri Lanka which is inalienable,” the BASL said adding that any unlawful attempt to interfere with the exercise of the franchise and any attempt to prevent people from exercising their sovereign right to choose their representatives at whatever level of Government will be a blatant attack on the Rule of Law and Democracy in Sri Lanka.

“Previous attempts by different administrations over the years to interfere with the franchise of the people have resulted in disastrous consequences on the country and its people. The BASL is firmly of the view that the Elections Commission should be allowed to exercise its powers mandated under the Constitution and the law without interference. The President and the Government must refrain from taking any steps which could be construed as an interference with the independent functions of that Commission and with the exercise of the franchise by the people,” the organisation said.

“The BASL notes that notwithstanding the decision by the Government by letter dated 10 January 2023, the Commissioner General of Elections has called upon the returning officers to continue to accept deposits. The BASL calls upon the Chairman and members of the Elections Commission and all public officers to continue to act according to the Constitution and the law so that the franchise of the people will be protected,” it added.