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    SC dismisses petitions supporting Death Penalty abolition bill Featured

    August 10, 2019

    The Supreme Court yesterday dismissed three petitions that sought special determinations from the Court in support of a bill submitted to Parliament for the abolition of the death penalty. The three petitions seeking a declaration that the clauses of the bill titled “An Act to Abolish the Death Penalty and to Make Consequential Provisions” are consistent with the Constitution were dismissed by Supreme Court.

    Supreme Court three-judge-bench Justices L.T.B. Dehideniya, Murdu Fernando and Gamini Amarasekere decided to dismiss the three petitions after upholding preliminary objections raised by Attorney General. Senior Deputy Solicitor General Nerin Pulle appearing for the Attorney General raised objections to the hearing of these petitions on the grounds that the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction. Pulle argued that the Court had no jurisdiction to entertain these applications in terms of Article 118 read with Article 120 and 121 of the Constitution and then to determine the constitutionality of the said bill.
    These petitions had been filed by three petitioners, including Prof. Camena Guneratne and Attorney-at-Law Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy naming the Attorney General as respondent. In her petition, Prof. Camena Gunaratne stated that a Bill titled “An Act to Abolish the Death Penalty and to Make Consequential Provisions” was placed on the Order Paper of the Parliament on 1st August 2019.

    This Bill is to be presented in Parliament by Parlimentarian Bandula Lal Bandarigoda.The petitioner states that this Bill has been formulated to abolish the death penalty as found in any Act, and to substitute the same with Life Imprisonment.The Petitioner specifically states that no provision of the Bill are unconstitutional, and therefore entertained a Legitimate Expectation that such Bill would duly be passed, bringing Sri Lanka in line with international norms. The Petitioner stated that such introduction of the abolition of the death penalty was in line with disclosed State Policy on such. Such disclosed State Policy being the imposition of a moratorium on the Death Penalty.

    The Petitioner states that in any event, the abolition of the death penalty in Sri Lanka’s legislation is a firm step in upholding the fundamental and inherent right to life enshrined in most international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which Sri Lanka acceded to on 11th June 1980 (entry into force on 11th September 1980). Petitioner states that the National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights 2017 – 2021 of Sri Lanka seeks to explicitly recognize the right to life.

    The Petitioner states that the abolition of the death penalty is constitutional as execution of such amounts to a violation of Article 11 of the Constitution and a failure to respect the inherent dignity of the person.President’s Counsel Saliya Peiris, counsel Pulasthi Hewamanne and counsel Manjula Balasooriya appeared for the petitioners. Senior Deputy Solicitor General Nerin Pulle with Senior State Counsel Kanishka de Silva appeared for the Attorney General.

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