July 13, Colombo: The Supreme Court, which concluded the hearing on a petition against certain clauses in the State Lands (Special Provisions) Bill, has announced that the Speaker will be informed of the verdict in near future.
The State Land (Special Provisions) Bill, tabled in Parliament, sought House approval to pass necessary provisions to award the sole right to lands of the State held by citizens and matters pertaining to affiliated matters.
The petition against the bill has been filed by five persons, including two parliamentarians, stating that certain provisions of the State Lands (Special Provisions) Bill, which was tabled in Parliament on 28 June, are contrary to the Constitution.
The petitioners seek the top court to rule that a two-third majority vote in parliament and a referendum is needed to pass certain sections of the bill.
The Supreme Court also ordered the petitioners and respondents to file written submissions regarding the petition before the court on the 15th.
The petition was taken up on Friday before a three-judge bench comprising justices Buwaneka Aluvihare, Prasanna Jayawardena and LTB Dehideniya.
The Attorney General has been named as the respondent in the petition.
The petitioners indicate that the draft bill presented to parliament last month has proposed to transfer the ownership of the land only to the people who have been residing in state lands with a permit.
The petitioners argue that although the proposals appear to be progressive, the government is preparing to introduce the bill with the intention of getting land for the proposed economic belt to be set up from Trincomalee to Colombo with the US.
The petitioners state that obtaining the views of all provincial councils in the country before the bill is presented to Parliament is an essential requirement under the Constitution but the government has not done so.
The petitioners state that many of the provisions of the Bill, which have been presented in contravention of the Constitution, violate fundamental rights.
The petitioners request the Supreme Court to give a verdict stating that in order to pass, the bill requires a two-thirds majority and a public referendum.
Joint Opposition Parliamentarians Udaya Gammanpila, Sisira Jayakody, Attorney-at-Law Premnath Dolawatte and Ven. Ulapane Sumangala Thero had lodged petitions against the State Lands (Special Provisions) Bill.
According to the Government, the Bill aims at allowing the people living on permit lands since the 1920s to obtain the absolute right to their lands and also to pass them to their children.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe recently said that certain organizations have opposed the granting of freehold land to the people under the present government but no one will be allowed to stop this right of the people.