SC upholds DSG’s assertion: Nobody can challenge presidential gazettes
A Supreme Court (SC) Bench comprising Chief Justice K. Sripavan, Justices Eva Wanasundara and Rohini Marasinghe, Friday refused leave to proceed in a Fundamental Rights (FR) application filed by Sri Lanka Gateway Industries Ltd (SLGIL), challenging the gazette notification issued by President Maithripala Sirisena revoking the release of land in Sampur, Trincomalee, for their investment project.
Earlier, the SC issued an interim order staying the Gazette notification issued by President Sirisena on May 7.
When hearings commenced on Friday Deputy Solicitor General (DSG) Viraj Dayaratne submitted on behalf of the Respondents that, “No one can challenge the actions of the Executive President, as per Article 35 of the Constitution. President Sirisena, as the Executive President, issued Gazette notification 1913/19, revoking the release of lands in Sampur for SLGIL’s project. Therefore, SLGIL cannot challenge the gazette notification issued by the president.”
Ronald Perera P.C. appearing for the Board of Investment (BOI) submitted they summoned SLGIL several times to grant them alternative land for the project, but SLGIL did not respond.
President Sirisena issued the Gazette notification on May 7 transferring 818 acres of land in Sampur to internally displaced persons, which was earlier leased to SLGIL by the BOI under the previous government, for a US$ 4 billion project.
SLGIL filed a FR application on May 15, challenging the Gazette notification and cited BOI and 9 others as Respondents. Petitioner stated that the BOI signed an agreement with SLGIL in 2012 to develop, operate, and manage a special industrial zone for heavy industries in Sampur, as the highest foreign direct investment in Sri Lanka’s history.
The petitioner stated that the project’s master plan included sugar, fertilizer, petrochemical and vehicle manufacturing industries, transshipping of coal and oil, and several other heavy industries, with estimates to generate more than 5,000 direct employment and 20,000 indirect employment opportunities.
SLGIL further stated that the Cabinet and Parliament had approved the project after careful analysis of the project proposal.
The petitioner complained that he was severely affected and prejudiced by President Sirisena’s order to cancel the land transfer for the project.
Meanwhile, 7 petitioners of FR case SCFR 309/2012, filed earlier, claiming to be residents of Sampur, sought permission to intervene in this matter. The SC decided to hear both cases, SLGIL’s and the 7 Sampur Residents’, on the same day.
The SC terminated FR case SCFR 309/2012 filed by the 7 Sampur residents, challenging former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Gazette notification, as the mentioned Gazette was already rescinded by President Sirisena’s Gazette notification.
Gamini Marapone P.C. with Sanjeewa Jayawardene P.C. appeared for the petitioner.