Supreme Court Dismisses Sumanthiran's FR against Online Safety Act.

Supreme Court Dismisses Sumanthiran's FR against Online Safety Act.

Sri Lanka's Supreme Court ordered the dismissal of the fundamental rights petition filed by M. A. Sumanthiram, PC, without granting permission for its examination.

The petition contested the validity of the Online Security Act as a legally binding statute.

The case was brought before the Supreme Court bench, comprising Justice Priyantha Jayawardene, Justice Shiran Gunaratne, and Justice Achala Vengappuli. 

The judges emphasized that, as an act duly passed by the parliament, the court lacks the legal jurisdiction to scrutinize its validity.

President’s Counsel and Jaffna District Member of Parliament M A Sumanthiran filed a fundamental rights application in the Supreme Court on 14th February challenging the Speaker’s certification of the Online Safety Bill as having been enacted into law.

The Petition stated that the Online Safety Bill was published in the Gazette on 18th September 2023 and then Tabled in Parliament on 3rd October 2023.

Several Petitions were then filed challenging the constitutionality of the Bill, and the Supreme Court’s determination on the Bill was read out in Parliament on 7th November 2023.

The Supreme Court Determination held that several clauses of the Bill would require a 2/3 majority of the whole number of Members of Parliament voting in its favour for the Bill to be enacted into law. However, the Determination also held that if specified amendments were made, the Bill could be enacted by simple majority.

In his Petition, MP Sumanthiran claimed that the government was seeking to enact the Bill without fully adhering the Supreme Court Determination, and that he had pointed out that the draft committee stage amendments would not sufficiently rectify the shortcomings, and provided his concerns in writing to the Speaker.

However, the Parliament had voted on the Bill prior to ensuring full compliance with the Determination, according to Sumanthiran.

The Petitioner claimed that the Bill could have been passed by simple majority only if all the changes required by the Supreme Court were incorporated. If these were not incorporated, the Bill could only have been enacted if 2/3 of the whole number of MPs voted in favour of the Bill.

MP Sumanthiran stated that the Bill was approved only by a simple majority of members present, and that therefore the Bill could not have become law.

Therefore he stated that the Speaker, by certifying that the Bill was enacted into law, has violated the public trust and the fundamental rights guaranteed to Sumanthiran and the citizenry.

Sumanthiran also stated that according to the Speaker, he had acted in accordance with advise given by the Attorney General, and if so, the Attorney General is also responsible for the violation of fundamental rights occasioned by the purported certification of the Bill.