Contempt of Court cases against Treasury Secretary dismissed

Shashinka Vidusara

COLOMBO (Ceylon News Factory) – The Supreme Court today dismissed two contempt of court applications filed against Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardana.

These applications were filed by Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara and National People’s Power Parliamentarian Vijitha Herath, alleging that the Treasury Secretary failed to comply with a Supreme Court order relating to the Local Government elections.

The Supreme Court five-judge-bench comprising Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya and Justices Buwanaka Aluvihare, Priyantha Jayawardena, Vijith K. Malalgoda and Murdu Fernando, dismissed the cases based on an objection raised by the Secretary to the Treasury regarding the ability to comply with the order.

However, the Supreme Court held that there is no merit in an objection raised by the respondent that the Court has no jurisdiction to hear matters relating Parliament and public finance.

On an earlier occasion, Senior Counsel Eraj de Silva, representing the Treasury Secretary, argued that the Treasury Secretary lacked the Constitutional authority to release funds without the Finance Minister’s warrant. According to Articles 150(1) and (2) of the Constitution, a warrant from the Minister is required to release funds from the consolidated funds. Although budgetary allocations had been made in Parliament in December for the Local Government elections, the release of funds is contingent on parliamentary control and other procedures. The Secretary to the Treasury released funds on the general warrant of the Minister before February 14, 2023. However, on that date, the Cabinet decided to allocate funds only for essential expenses, without specifying election expenses as essential.

Consequently, under the Constitution, the Treasury Secretary is no longer authorized to release such funds. De Silva emphasized that there was no willful disobedience on the part of the Treasury Secretary.

President’s Counsel Geoffrey Alagaratnam with Counsel Suren Fernando and Upul Kumarapperuma appeared for the petitioners, while Senior Counsel Eraj De Silva with Daminda Wijeratna, Janagan Sundramoorthy, and N.K. Ashokbharan instructed by Dinesh Vidanapathirana appeared for the Secretary to the Treasury.

Share This Article
Leave a comment