SC says VAT Bill process nullified

Published : 9:29 am  August 10, 2016 | No comments so far |  | 


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SS1By Kelum Bandara  
The Supreme Court said yesterday that the due constitutional procedure and the Parliament Standing Orders had not been followed when presenting the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill and as such the entire process had been nullified.  

The SC’s announcement was communicated to Parliament by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya. The Court said a determination on the constitutionality of the Bill could not be made on the grounds of the challenge raised by the petitioners one of whom was JO MP Sisira Jayakody. The Court said the provisions in Article 152 of the Constitution and Standing Order 133 are imperative, and the failure to follow them had nullified the subsequent proceedings.   

Article 152 says, “No bill or motion, authorising the disposal of or imposition of the charges upon the Consolidated Fund or other funds of the Republic or the imposition of any tax of the repeal, augmentation or reduction of any tax for the time being in force shall be introduced in Parliament except by a Minister, and unless such a Bill or motion has been approved either by the Cabinet of Ministers or in such manner as the Cabinet of Ministers may authorise.”  

Article 78(2) of the Constitution says the passing of a Bill should be done in accordance with Standing Orders. Standing Order 133 stipulates that the introduction of a Bill should signify to Parliament the approval of the Cabinet .   
JO MPs thumped their desks when the Speaker read out the announcement.

Legislation enacted in similar manner by earlier Parliaments: PM

SS2By Kelum Bandara  
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s announcement on the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said legislation had been enacted in a similar manner by  previous parliaments and  requested the Speaker to rule on this matter for future legislative work.

He said though he was aggrieved by the ruling, he would not call for the impeachment of the Chief Justice. He said the rule of law had been established under the government founded on principles of good governance and therefore one could at least seek redress from court.  

The Prime Minister said there seemed to be a deviation in this instance. He said it was against the ruling given by former Speaker Anura Bandaranaike who upheld the supremacy of Parliament.  
However, he said the government would introduce fresh legislation in this respect in conformity with the Supreme Court’s ruling.  
“I do not intend creating a conflict on this matter,” the Prime Minister said.  

He said he was compiling details about the laws adopted in a similar manner and pointed out that it was a matter for Parliament to determine whether Cabinet approval had been secured for a particular Bill under Standing Order 133.  
The Prime Minister said the ministers had acted in the past without notifying the House.  
The Speaker said he would study the matter in consultation with the party leaders and give his ruling.


The minister or the SG had blundered: Dinesh  

SS3By Kelum Bandara  
Joint opposition parliamentary group leader Dinesh Gunawardane said yesterday either the Subject Minister or the Parliament Secretary General had blundered when presenting the Value Added Tax ( VAT) Amendment Bill without following the proper procedure. 

Mr. Gunawardane expressed his views after the Speaker read out the Supreme Court determination and said the Constitution stipulated the procedure to be followed. 

It is the responsibility of the minister or Parliament Secretary General to ensure that the Cabinet approval was notified

He said the Cabinet should endorse the Bill and that the decision should be communicated to the House before it’s presented.  
Mr. Gunawardane said it was the responsibility of the minister or the Parliament Secretary General to ensure that the Cabinet approval was notified to the House. He recalled how former minister A. T. Adikari was stripped of his portfolio because of such a mistake he had done during the tenure of former president R. Premadasa.  

“Financial Bills are serious matters as we all know,” he said.