Jan 21, Colombo: Lawyers for Democracy (LfD), a lawyers' group in Sri Lanka, has condemned the government's attempt to pass the Criminal Procedure (Special Provisions) Bill in Parliament this week.
The legislation to extend the period of detention of persons who have been arrested without a warrant will be taken up for debate and approval when parliament meets Tuesday (22).
Issuing a statement, the Lawyers for Democracy said that it condemns the move by the government to pass the Criminal Procedure (Special Provisions) Bill through Parliament disregarding the numerous concerns expressed by the legal community, political parties, Human Rights groups and civil society groups.
The Bill presented to the parliament on October 11 last year by the Justice Minister would enable the police to detain a person who has been arrested without a warrant for 48 hours without producing the suspect before a magistrate.
Under the current law, a person arrested by the police without a warrant has to be produced before a magistrate within 24 hours.
"We are aware of a numerous instances where even this existing provision has been abused by the police, notorious for its ill treatment of suspects in custody. This provision has existed for well over 100 years and no necessity has arisen for a change in the Law. Especially in the face of advances made in science and technology in the investigation of crimes," the lawyers' organization said.
The government says that the detention period has been extended to 48 hours after arrest in order to facilitate the investigation process.
"The impact of this legislation has to be considered in the context of the happenings of recent times where it is seen that a process is in place to deprive the people of the democratic rights that they enjoyed for years, including the Rule of Law, independence of the judiciary and respect for human rights," the statement issued by the LfD said.
Following a fundamental rights petition filed against the legislation before the Supreme Court last year, the court has held that Clause 8 of the Bill was inconsistent with the Article 13(2) of Constitution and should be approved by a two-third majority.
According to the LfD, this will be another instance where the government will be using its 2/3rd majority "dubiously obtained" by the crossing over of opposition members and not on a mandate from the people.
"The government has no moral or legal right to make use of this majority as it is obtained against the provisions of the constitution and violating the principles of proportional representation," the statement further said.
The lawyers' organization called upon all political parties to take a principled stand on this vital issue as this is just one chain of events to follow aimed at suppressing the democratic rights of the people.