Tamil Diplomat

SC determination on VAT Bill; PM seeks a ruling from Chair on procedures

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe has urged the Speaker to discuss the Supreme Court’s determination on VAT Bill with party leaders and deliver a ruling on those laws passed and Parliament could follow one procedure in the future in moving a Bill before Parliament.

He made the request after the Chair made the announcement of the SC’s determination. He stated that a large number of Bills were passed and became law during the last decade in the same manner following the procedure which has been followed in respect of the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill, although the latter had been treated differently.

He added that it was the responsibility of the Speaker to decide if the standing orders have been followed by Parliament while Parliament also has the power to suspend its standing orders as well. There are a large number of Bills which have become law in Parliament, last Parliament and the Parliament before, following the procedure which has been followed in respect of the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill.

He pointed out that according to the law, when a law is passed, the Court cannot question it. According to provision 152 of the Constitution and the 133 of the standing orders, a minister has to get Cabinet approval before the Bill is moved and has to express that he has obtained approval. However, during the last 10 years, previous ministers did not follow the tradition of informing Parliament that Cabinet approval had been obtained to pass the Bill. Since 1993, when the President initiated to act as the Finance Minister this had not been practiced.

He stressed that it was the responsibility of the Speaker to decide if the standing orders have been followed and his decision is final. On the other hand, Parliament has the power to suspend any standing order. Supreme Court decision contravenes a previous ruling by late Speaker Anura Bandaranaike.