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Operative law stipulates President's period is five years: Manohara

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President's Counsel Manohara de Silva has pleaded that the incumbent President could not hold office beyond the five year period under the operative law.

He was making submissions before the five judge Supreme Court Bench that heard submissions to deliver a rule on the reference made by President Maithripala Sirisena over the tenure of the office.

He argued that Parliament had not said that the incumbent President Sirisena could hold office for six years when it passed the 19th amendment to the Constitution in May 2015; it had only said the term of the President should be five years and not six years. Under the operative law President Sirisena could not go beyond five years. The 19th Amendment says that the President shall hold office for only five years. The President shall hold office, according to the amendment. It simply means that, the term is subject to the amendment, specified in the 19th Amendment.

He submitted: "Parliament did not say that the incumbent President could go on for six years. With regard to the President, the Parliament said that the President would hold office subject to the 19th Amendment.

The incumbent President could have invoked the Supreme Court under Article 121, soon after the enactment of the 19th Amendment to clarify his rights. He didn't do so.

The President could have challenged his rights as a citizen then. He did not do that. He could have challenged the reduction of his term. He did not do it soon after the 19th Amendment was passed in May 2015.

The President at a public meeting has said he wanted the term reduced. This current challenge could be somebody else's afterthought.

The retrospective question is not relevant here. The prospective effect is that he can hold office for five years from the date of taking the oath as President."

Counsel Manohara de Silva PC, appeared for the intervenient petitioner Prof. G.L. Peiris.

The five judge Bench comprised Chief Justice Priyasath Dep, justices Eva Wanasundera, Justices B.P. Aluvihara, Sisira J. De Abrew and K.T. Chitrasiri.

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