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Supreme Court Commences Hearing on Petitions Against New Anti-Terrorism Bill

This morning (Jan.26), the hearing for petitions filed against the government’s new Anti-Terrorism Bill began before a five-member Supreme Court judge bench. Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya and Justices A.H.M.D. Nawaz, Shiran Gunaratne, and Arjuna Obeysekera presided over the petition hearing.

A total of 27 petitions have been submitted opposing the proposed legislation, which aims to replace the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Notable petitioners include His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, General Secretary of Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Ranjith Madduma Bandara, National People’s Power (NPP) MP Vijitha Herath, Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), Socialist Youth Union (SYU), Duminda Nagamuwa of Frontline Socialist Party (FSP), and the Ceylon Teachers’ Union (CTU).

The Attorney General has been designated as the respondent for these petitions. The petitions seek a Supreme Court order mandating a parliamentary vote with a two-thirds majority and a referendum to pass the Bill, which was presented in parliament on January 10.

Critics argue that if the Bill is enacted in its current form, it would grant excessive powers to the Tri-Forces, the Police, and the Coast Guard, enabling unwarranted arrests without reasonable suspicion. They contend that this would be a violation of fundamental rights, including freedom of expression, as guaranteed by the Constitution.

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