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Monday, July 15, 2024

SC flags constitutional inconsistencies in Telecommunications Bill

In a significant development, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced the Supreme Court’s determination on the Telecommunications (Amendment) Bill in Parliament yesterday.

He revealed that the Apex Court has found several clauses in the proposed bill to be inconsistent with the Constitution, necessitating either amendments or a special majority for passage.

Addressing Parliament, Speaker Abeywardena detailed the Supreme Court’s assessment, which was made in response to challenges brought under Article 121(1) of the Constitution. The Court identified specific clauses within the bill that do not align with constitutional provisions, particularly Article 12(1), which guarantees equality before the law, and Articles 14(1)(a) and 14(1)(g), which pertain to freedom of speech and expression.

The Court, the Speaker said, found clauses 8, 9, 12 and 13 inconsistent with Article 12(1) of the Constitution and required amendment. He said the Courts also found clauses 18 (5), 18 (7), 20 and 33 as inconsistent with the Constitution.

The Speaker emphasised that while the identified clauses necessitate amendments or a special majority, other provisions in the bill do not conflict with the Constitution.

The Telecommunications (Amendment) Bill, introduced in May, proposes stringent penalties for misuse of telephone communications. Leader of the House Susil Premajayantha presented the bill, which includes fines up to Rs. 100,000 and potential disconnection of services for those causing persistent annoyance or inconvenience without reasonable cause. The bill, revisited after 28 years, also targets deliberate incitement of public unrest through communication, proposing fines up to Rs. 1 million, imprisonment, and daily fines for ongoing offences.

FT

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