Dec 11, 2018

Can president's mental health be challenged? Featured

A petition has been filed in the Court of Appeal seeking a writ of mandamus against IGP Pujith Jayasundara directing that judicial proceedings be instituted for the purpose of inquiring into the mental health of president Maithripala Sirisena.

Thakshila Lakmali Jayawardena, a resident of Colombo 12, has moved the plaint as a matter of public interest, also citing the attorney general and the OIC of Colombo Fort police as respondents.

Neither president Sirisena nor his media unit has so far reacted to the petition.

President has the immunity?

Speaking to BBC Sinhala Service, lawyer Achala Seneviratne said a citizen has the right to petition the CA seeking to know if any public servant suffers from a mental disability that in turn harms the public.

Since the executive’s immunity has been removed by the 19th amendment to the constitution, a writ of mandamus could be sought against the president, she said.

Lawyer Lal Wijenayake said the CA has the powers to issue such an order against a public servant, but said a question remained if that was so against the executive president as well.

He said the 19th amendment has removed the presidential immunity on matters of human rights only.

However, Seneviratne said that is possible since a writ of mandamus has a wide jurisdiction in terms of public interest.

That matter will clearly be argued at the CA and if the petition is granted leave to proceed, it could be taken up by the district court, said Seneviratne.

140Clause 140 of the constitution

Lawyer for the petitioner Sisira Jayawardena said the president could only enjoy his immunity if he was found to be of sound mind.

There could be several reasons to suspect the president was suffering from a mental disability, he said.

The petition seeks an order that the president is produced before the Colombo district court and a decision taken if psychiatric treatment was needed for him.

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