Oct 29, Colombo: Putting a damper on the Sri Lankan President's goal to execute at least one convicted drug trafficker before his term ends next month, the Supreme Court Tuesday extended the interim order staying the implementation of the death penalty on the prisoners who were sentenced to death for drug offenses until December 10.
The Supreme Court today heard the 15 fundamental rights petitions filed by various parties requesting an order staying the executions before a three-judge bench comprising Justices Buwaneka Aluvihare, S.W. Thurairajah and Gamini Amarasekara
Petitioners' lawyers requested the court to grant permission to hear the petitions as the Supreme Court has already issued a restraining order preventing the President from carrying out the executions.
Deputy Solicitor General Nerin Pulle said the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction to hear the petition as per the constitution.
The President's Counsel M. A. Sumanthiran appearing for the petitioners pointed out that the apex court made the decision to issue a restraining order in response to the petitions because it has jurisdiction and, it has jurisdiction to hear the petitions as well.
President's Counsel Shavendra Fernando, appearing for the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), requested the Chief Justice to submit a request to hear the case before a full panel of judges, as it is a matter of great concern to the public.
Noting the request the three-member bench decided to direct the request to the Chief Justice to take a decision.
The three-member Supreme Court Bench adjourning the case till December 9 extended the order staying the implementation of the death sentence to December 10.
Fifteen petitions have been filed by several parties including the Center for Policy Alternatives, the prisoners in the death row and the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, challenging the implementation of the death penalty by the president.
The petitioners stated that President Maithripala Sirisena speaking at a function to commemorate the World Anti-Narcotics Day, said he would sign the death sentence for four heroin traffickers who were convicted of drug trafficking.
Petitioners state that the President's decision to select only those involved in drug trafficking from the death penalty is a violation of the fundamental right of equal treatment under Article 12 (1) of the Constitution.
The petitioners have requested the Supreme Court to rule that the President's decision to carry out the death penalty for a select group of prisoners is unconstitutional and to issue an interim order preventing the implementation of the death sentence on the selected prisoners.
President Sirisena recently said if the Supreme Court favors, he would carry out the execution of at least one convicted drug trafficker before his term ends on November 16.