Colombo, Dec 13: The Sri Lankan Supreme Court on Thursday ruled as “unconstitutional” President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision to dissolve Parliament and conduct a snap parliamentary election in early January.
Sri Lanka plunged into political turmoil when Sirisena surprisingly sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in late October and replaced him with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. When Sirisena’s decision was contested, he dissolved Parliament and called for a snap parliamentary election in January.
The ruling can see Wickremesinghe return to office, the BBC reported.
A seven-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Nalin Perera, said that the President could not dissolve Parliament till it was four-and-a-half years through its five-year term and that if he wanted to dissolve Parliament, there must be a resolution with a two thirds majority.
Local media reports said that the top court’s verdict meant that the parliamentary elections will be held as scheduled after February 2020, following its four and a half years of term.
Following the ruling, Wickremesinghe in a statement on his Twitter account urged Sirisena to respect the judgement while his United National Party said they hope to meet the President later on Thursday to discuss the court’s ruling.
The Supreme Court’s verdict came a day after Parliament passed a vote of confidence in Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister.
Namal Rajapaksa, a lawmaker from the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, a party loyal to challenged Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, said his party respected the court’s decision but they would continue their call for a parliamentary election in order to end the ongoing political struggle, Xinhua news agency reported.
There was no immediate comment from Sirisena.
The election, which was announced by the President one and a half years ahead of schedule, was challenged in the Supreme Court by opposition lawmakers who said Sirisena did not have the powers to call an early poll.
The crisis — which provoked brawls in Parliament and sparked large protests — has hurt tourism, which makes up about 5 per cent of the country’s economy.