legal battles over local polls
By Teles Anandappa
Sri Lanka’s two major parties this week faced fiercely contested
legal battles in regard to rejection of their nomination lists by
election officers for the forthcoming local government polls.
contested rejections were mainly over disputed questions concerning
allegedly underaged youth candidates in the nomination lists of
the UNP for the Colombo Municipal Council and the UPFA for the Gampaha
Municipal Council. Objections had been raised to the nomination
lists of the two main parties by the JVP, another contestant party
at the local government polls.
youth quota had been brought in for local government polls by an
amendment to the Local Authorities Elections Law in 1990. The amended
law, read together with another amendment in 1987, stipulates that
a ‘youth’ means a person “not less than eighteen
years as at first June of the year in which the revision of the
operative electoral register commenced...”
the Court of Appeal, Justices K Sripavan and Sisira de Abrew issued
notice in the UPFA writ petition against the rejection of the UPFA
Gampaha nomination list on grounds that one of the candidates was
underage. The Returing Officer had been acting according to instructions
issued by the Elections Commissioner to calculate youth candidates
as those candidates who are of the age of majority by 1st June 2004,
(on the basis that revision of the electoral register for 2004 commenced
UPFA challenged this rejection stating that 2005 was the year in
which the revision of the operative register commenced and that
the rejected candidate fell within the classification of a youth
the issues, the Appeal Court, on March 2nd, issued notice on eleven
respondents including election officers and the secretaries of the
other contesting political parties. However, the petitioner reserved
the right to interim relief in respect of the rejection of the Gampaha
nomination list due to the fact that a special leave to appeal application
against the interim relief awarded by the Court of Appeal in a similar
matter was due to be taken up in the Supreme Court on the following
day, that is March 3rd.
that case, the Court of Appeal had issued an interim order staying
the operation of the purported order made by the Returning Officer
rejecting the nomination list of the UNP and restraining the Elections
Commissioner from conducting the election of members to the Colombo
Municipal Council scheduled to be held on March 30, 2006 until final
determination of this case.
The petitioner UNP had been seeking a Court order directing the
Elections Commissioner and the Returning Officer to accept forthwith
the UNP nomination list and quash the determination of the Returning
Officer rejecting the nomination.
Elections Commissioner appealed to the Supreme Court against the
granting of interim relief pleading that unless the order was vacated,
grave and irremediable mischief would be caused in regard to the
conducting of the polls.
the special leave application was taken up for hearing on Friday
before a Bench consisting Justices Shiranee Bandaranayake, T.B.
Weerasuriya and N. E. Dissanayake, Solicitor General C.R. De Silva,
appearing in support, stated that the Returning Officer was only
under a statutory obligation to communicate the fact of rejection
of the nomination list to the affected political party which he
any event, the Returning Officer had gone further and orally informed
the UNP as to the reasons for the rejection of the nomination list
at that time. In this case, one of the candidates, Supum Lakmal
was under 18 years of age on June 1st 2004 as calculated from the
date in which revision of the electoral list commenced (which was
1st June 2004) and not the date on which the register was certified,
that is 1st June 2005. The order was correct according to Article
31(1) of the Local Authorities Election Ordinance read with the
claimed that the rule was that there should be 40% of youth that
is between the age of 18 and 35 and the rest could be of over 35
years of age. As one candidate was underage, the 40% component was
not in conformity with the rule and therefore the Returning Officer
rejected the entire list. Mr. De Silva also said that the Returning
Officer had to check the list and also the relevant documents that
had to be submitted with the nomination list in one and a half hours.
counsel for the petitioner-respondent UNP, then said it was not
possible for the Returning Officer to do all that in one and a half
hours which was why the officer had only to check the numbers on
the list. His powers were limited to a physical check and a head
count of the list and he could not go further.
Further hearing was fixed for March 7.
General C.R de Silva P.C. appeared with Deputy Solicitors General
A Gnanadasan and Shavindra Fernando and Senior State Counsel N.
Pulle for the appellants.
Mustapha P.C. appeared with Upul Jayasuriya, Daya Pelpola, Ronald
Perera, Sanjeewa Jayawardena and Raman Cassim for the UNP General
Jayantha de Almeida Guneratne P.C. appeared with Parakrama Agalawatte
and Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena for the 9th respondent JVP.
Manohara de Silva appeared with Udaya Gammanpila for the 8th respondent