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Sri Lanka: Local bodies elections for March 17 to Akmeemana, Moneragala and Akuressa suspended by CA.

Colombo, Feb. 18 -- The Court of Appeal today suspended the holding of elections to Akmeemana, Moneragala and Akuressa Pradeshiya Sabha Local Government bodies, until the final determination on the hearing at these petitions.

The Court of Appeal issued interim order restraining the Commissioner of Elections from conducting or from causing to be conducted the Local Authorities Elections for these local government bodies.

The panel consisting Justices Sathya Hettige (President) and Upaly Abeyrathne issued this order operative until the final determination of the Writ applications challenging purported rejection of two nomination papers of ruling UPFA to Akmeemana and Moneragala and other one by Independent Group to Akuressa challenging non acceptance of its nomination paper.

The UPFA challenged the rejections of its nomination papers submitted to the forthcoming Local Authorities Elections.

As a prelude, it filed Writ application challenging the rejection of its nomination paper for the Akmeemana Pradeshiya Sabha (known as Village Council) considered as the fortress of the UPFA of Galle district in the deep South of the Country.

UPFA General Secretary Minister A.D.Susil Premajayantha and its Authorized Agent Lalith U. Gamage for the said election filed the Writ application citing Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake, Returning Officer for Akmeemana Anthony Bimal Indrajith, District Returning Officer Wijeratna Sakalasuriya, the Attorney General, UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake and its candidates as well as JVP General Secretary Tilwin Silva and its candidates as Respondents.

They claimed that the UPFA is one of the two main political parties in the country and has a large voter base Island-wide including Galle District and more particularly the Akmeemana PS area.

On January 27, within the time frame stipulated for nominations, its Authorized Agent handed over to the Returning Officer the nomination paper containing the names of 19 candidates nominated by the UPFA in respect of the Akmeemana Pradeshiya Sabha (PS) area, they stated in the petition.

The time period stipulated for nominations ended at 12.00 noon, at the end of which period, one and a half hours was allowed to raise objections, if any, to the nomination papers so tendered by all parties, they added, that no objection to the nomination paper of the UPFA was raised during the said objection period.

When at approximately 1.30 p.m. towards the end of the objection period, the Returning Officer announced that the nomination paper handed over by the UPFA was rejected, owing to a purported defect in the same, they grieved.

All attempts made by their Authorized Agent to ascertain the reason for the said purported rejection were of no avail and the Returning Officer merely informed the Authorized Agent that any further steps with regard to the said nomination paper, then it will have to be taken through Court, it alleged.

However, by the letter of January, the said Retuning Officer purported to formally intimated to the UPFA General Secretary Susil Premajayantha that their nomination paper had been rejected by him for the purported reason that the oath/affirmation as the case may be in the form prescribed in the seventh schedule to the Constitution, of one candidate not being named by the Justice of the Peace/Commissioner for Oaths, they complained.

The said intimation is vague and unimpressive and is not of much assistance in identifying the candidate whose oath/affirmation is purportedly defective, they blamed.

The said purported reason given is confusing and devoid of any meaning in that it speaks of a oath/affirmation of a candidate being signed by a Justice of the Peace or Commissioner for Oaths, when clearly it is the candidate himself who must sign, such oath/affirmation as per the form prescribed in the seventh Schedule to the Constitution, they disputed.

The said nomination paper was duly signed by the 1st Petitioner as the General Secretary of the UPFA who is a Justice of the Peace, they maintained, the nomination paper was duly completed and signed oath/affirmation by each and every candidate named therein, it emphasized.

Accordingly, the requirement of Section 28(4) of the Local Authorities Elections Ordinance as amended have been duly satisfied by each and every candidate whose names appeared in the said nomination paper, they asserted.

The said oaths/affirmations of the candidates were also countersigned by the Justice of the Peace, who signed the said nomination paper out of an abundance of candidates, they insisted.

There is clearly no requisite by the seventh schedule to the Constitution, nor by the relevant provision of the Local Authorities Elections Ordinance as neither amended nor induced by the Oath and Affirmation Ordinance, did they point out.

The want of a counter signing by the Justice of the Peace or affirmation of a particular candidate would not affect the legal validity of such oath or affirmation, nor would it amount to a violation / non-compliance with any provision of the Local Authorities Elections Ordinance, they pleaded.

The said purported rejection of the nomination paper of the UPFA for Akmeemana PS area by the Returning Officer has been prompted by a mistaken understanding of such officer, that such counter singing by a Justice of the Peace is an essential prerequisite of a valid oath/affirmation and hence the said rejection is completely illegal, arbitrary and capricious, it alleged.

The purported decision of the Returning Officer to reject the said Nomination paper is also vitiate by his failure to give sufficient details to enable the identification of the candidate whose oath/affirmation was allegedly defective, they decried.

The Returning Officer has acted in breach of his statutory duty to accept the nomination papers which have been tendered in accordance with the law, they maintained.

They seek order from the Court for a Writ of Certiorari quashing the purported decision of the Retuning Officer to reject their nomination paper and a Writ of Mandamus directing the Elections Commissioner and the Returning Officer to forthwith accept the nomination paper of the UPFA.

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Publication:Asian Tribune (India)
Date:Feb 18, 2011
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