Constitution of Sri Lanka

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Coat of arms of Sri Lanka, showing a lion holding a sword in its right forepaw surrounded by a ring made from blue lotus petals which is placed on top of a grain vase sprouting rice grains to encircle it. A Dharmacakra is on the top while a sun and moon are at the bottom on each side of the vase.
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The Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka has been the constitution of the island nation of Sri Lanka since its original promulgation by the National State Assembly on 7 September 1978. It is Sri Lanka's second republican constitution, and its third constitution since the country's independence (as Ceylon) in 1948. As of September 2010 it has been formally amended 18 times.

History of the Constitution[edit]

When the United National Party (UNP) came to power in July 1977 with a five-sixths majority, the second amendment to the 1972 Constitution was passed on 4 October 1977 to establish an executive presidency, with J. R. Jayewardene (the then Prime Minister) becoming the first Executive President on 4 February 1978. Before the 1977 general election the UNP had sought a mandate from the people to adopt a new constitution. Accordingly a select committee was appointed to consider the revision of the existing Constitution.

The new Constitution, promulgated on 7 September 1978, provided for a unicameral parliament and an Executive President. The term of office of the president and the duration of parliament were both set at six years. The new Constitution also introduced a form of multi-member proportional representation for elections to parliament, which was to consist of 196 members (subsequently increased to 225 by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution).

The Constitution provided for an independent judiciary and guaranteed fundamental rights, providing for any aggrieved person to invoke the Supreme Court for any violation of his or her fundamental rights. The Constitution also provided for a Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (Ombudsman) who could investigate public grievances against government institutions and state officers and give redress. It also introduced anti-defection laws, and referendums on certain bills and on issues of national importance.

Provisions for amendment[edit]

Most provisions of the Constitution of Sri Lanka can be amended by a two-thirds majority in parliament. However, the amendment of certain basic features such as the clauses on language, religion, and reference to Sri Lanka as a unitary state require both a two-thirds majority and approval at a nation-wide referendum.

Amendments to date[edit]

Amendment Date Description
First Amendment 20 November 1978 Dealing with jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal
Second Amendment 26 February 1979 Dealing with resignations and expulsion of Members of the First Parliament
Third Amendment 27 August1982 To enable the President to seek re-election after 4years; vacation of office of President
Fourth Amendment 23 December 1982 Extension of term of first Parliament
Fifth Amendment 25 February 1983 To provide for by-election when a vacancy is not filled by the party
Sixth Amendment 8 August 1983 Prohibition against violation of territorial integrity
Seventh Amendment 4 October 1983 Dealing with Commissioners of the High Court and the creation of Kilinochchi District
Eighth Amendment 6 March 1984 Appointment of President's Counsel
Ninth Amendment 24 August 1984 Relating to public officers qualified to contest elections
Tenth Amendment 6 August 1986 To repeal section requiring two-thirds majority for Proclamation under Public Security Ordinance
Eleventh Amendment 6 May 1987 To provide for a Fiscal for the whole Island; also relating to sittings of the Court of Appeal
Twelfth Amendment (Not enacted)
Thirteenth Amendment 14 November 1987 To make Tamil an official language and English a link Language, and for the establishment of Provincial Councils
Fourteenth Amendment 24 May 1988 Extension of immunity of President; increase of number of Members to 225; validity of referendum; appointment of Delimitation Commission for the division of electoral districts into zones; proportional representation and the cut-off point to be 1/8 of the total polled; apportionment of the 29 National List Members
Fifteenth Amendment 17 December 1988 To repeal Article 96A to eliminate zones and to reduce the cut-off point to 1/20th
Sixteenth Amendment 17 December 1988 To make provision for Sinhala and Tamil to be Languages of Administration and Legislation
Seventeenth Amendment 3 October 2001 To make provisions for the Constitutional Council and Independent Commissions
Eighteenth Amendment 8 September 2010 To remove the sentence that mentioned the limit of the re-election of the President and to propose the appointment of a parliamentary council that decides the appointment of independent posts like commissioners of election, human rights, and Supreme Court judges

External links[edit]