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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

BASL slams lack of consultation on new laws

To push for post-enactment judicial review of legislation and ‘progressive’ OSA amendments  

Accusing the Government of not properly consulting the relevant stakeholders when new pieces of legislations are introduced, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) stated that they would continue to work towards a post-legislation enactment judicial review process so that any legislation could be challenged or amended even after they are passed in the Parliament.

Speaking to The Daily Morning, the BASL President, President’s Counsel (PC) Kaushalya Nawaratne said that the Government should follow proper procedures and consult all stakeholders when a new piece of legislation is introduced, emphasising: “They never consult all stakeholders when they draft new legislation. There are these mushroom committees that make related decisions at their own will, and the Government is introducing new laws. That is one of the main concerns that we have, and we cannot simply ignore it. The Government should consult all stakeholders including the BASL.” He also said that the BASL would continue to fight against such shortcomings: “In terms of our law, we don’t have a post-legislation enactment judicial review process where a piece of legislation can be challenged before the respective court. Once it is passed, it is passed. We are concerned about it. We will continue to work to have a system in our legal system which enables us to challenge the validity of a certain piece of legislation even after they are passed in the Parliament”.

Commenting on the Online Safety Act (OSA), No. 09 of 2024, the passage of which has attracted criticism from various parties, Nawaratne PC said that the Parliamentarians themselves had opined that it had not been passed by following the due procedures. “The Supreme Court’s (SC) determination on the relevant Bill has not been followed either. These are the reasons as to why it was challenged before the SC (Opposition MP, M.A. Sumanthiran PC challenged the passage of the OSA before the SC). The SC has ruled that it lacks jurisdiction. However, the public agitation against it will not go away. We will certainly take it forward to put pressure on the Government at least to bring progressive amendments to this Act,” he said.

Speaking to the media recently, the Minister of Justice, Prison Affairs. and Constitutional Reforms, Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe PC said that 35 Acts had been passed in the years 2022 and 2023 (last year) with the aim of updating laws related to various fields. He added that the legislative updates would continue this year, with 60 Bills expected to be passed. Several such Acts that have been enacted and are to be enacted by the Government such as the OSA and the Anti-Terrorism Bill have attracted criticism from various parties.

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