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"President is not precluded from holding office for the period he took oaths for": AG

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Attorney General President's Counsel Jayantha Jayasooriya has submitted that President Maithriapala Sirisena could hold office for six years, the period for which he took oaths for. No provision of the constitution precludes him from holding office for the six year period.

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.

AG Jayasooriya pleaded that the 19th Amendment has no provision that says that it is applicable retrospectively. The 19th Amendment, though it limits the term of office of the President to five years, is not retrospective. The provisions are operative prospectively only.

He said: "People had exercised their franchise and elected the incumbent President on January 8, 2015. The results were confirmed on January 9, 2015. The incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena took oaths for a period of six years on January 9, 2015.

The 19th Amendment of the Constitution came effective after the incumbent President had been sworn in. The 19th Amendment commenced on May 14, 2015. By that time President Sirisena had already commenced his six year term.

Article 38 of the Constitution specified the vacation of office of the President. Under Article 38/1 e the President could be impeached by the legislature. By Article 40, the vacancy that occurs should be filled for the balanced period. But, it will not have an impact on the term of office of the incumbent President.

The President is elected by the people. The term of office will be that provision in force at that time. The term of office is the term in force at the time the people exercised their franchise. The duration of the term could be changed with a mandate of the people with a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

The retrospective provision on this issue will have to be approved by the people besides ratification by Parliament. The sovereignty of the people enshrined on Article (3) of the Constitution cannot be alienated."

Attorney General President's Counsel Jayantha Jayasooriya appeared with Additional Solicitor General Murdu Fernando and Deputy Solicitor General Nerin Pulle.

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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