Election Commission of Sri Lanka
Legal provisions on the establishment of Independent Commissions were introduced to the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka by the 17th Amendment to the Constitution passed in the year 2001. Seven Commissions were proposed to be established under this and the Elections Commission was out of them.
A singular methodology was introduced by the Constitution for the appointment of members to the Commissions. That is, the names of members and Chairpersons for Elections Commission and other Commissions had to be recommended by the Constitutional Council established by the Seventeenth Amendment. It was a remarkable feature that no person could be appointed to the Commissions by the President without the recommendation of the Constitutional Council. In case the President refrained from appointing persons recommended by the Constitutional Council within 14 days of such recommendation, they were deemed to be appointed.
The Election Commission could not be established under the Seventeenth Amendment. The underlying reason was the problematic situation of the appointment of persons recommended by the Constitutional Council. Further, the Elections Commission could not be appointed because of the problematic situation of the appointment of the Constitutional Council for the second term.
The Election Commission that was scheduled to be appointed under the Seventeenth Amendment consisted of five members. The quorum for a meeting was three. However, a Council called Parliamentary Council was established for the appointment of members for Independent Commissions by the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution in place of the Constitutional Council. In addition, the number of members of the Elections Commission was reduced to three persons. According to these amendments, the President was able to appoint members for the Commissions without the recommendation of the Parliamentary Council.
The Nineteenth Amendment was presented in the year 2015 due to strong pressure and requests made by the civil society as well as by political parties and others who were interested in the subject of the establishment of the Elections Commission and other Commissions The Elections Commission consists of three members and the quorum of three remained unchanged. The Constitution specified the qualifications to be members of the Commission. Accordingly, two persons who have excelled in the fields of Administration and Education and a retired officer of the Department of Elections who had held an office of the rank of Deputy Commissioner of Elections or above, should be appointed as members of the Commission, out of whom one member should be appointed as Chairman by the President. Under the new provisions, the President cannot refrain from appointing persons recommended by the Constitutional Council.
Further, the Constitution has ruled that no Member of Parliament or Provincial Council, a Member of a Local Authority, an Officer of Judicial Service or a Public Officer should be appointed as a member of the Elections Commission. The term of office of members of the Elections Commission is five years. The procedure followed in removing a Judge of the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal should be followed in removing a member from office during the period of the term of office.
The Department was operative at the time of appointing of the Elections Commission and, the Department of Elections which was functioning from 01-10-1955 was terminated with effect from 17-11-2015 as per the terms specified in the Article 49 (3) (D) of the Constitution to the effect that the words “Elections Commission” should replace the words “Department of Elections” and “Commissioner of Elections”, which means the power hitherto exercised by “the office of the Commissioner of Elections” is vested in the Elections Commission.
With the termination of the Department of Elections, its powers and functions, physical and human resources were transferred to the Elections Commission. As such, the establishment of the Elections Commission did not create any particular issue on its staff or in physical resources. By the decision on the Cabinet paper / No.15/1908/701/018 of 08.01.2016 the entire staff including the staff grade officers who were serving the Department of Elections was attached to the Elections Commission with the entitlements and privileges they were enjoying.
Chairman and the Members of the Election Commission
Mr. Nimal G. Punchihewa
Mr. S.B. Divaratne
Mr. M.M. Mohamed
Mr. K.P.P. Pathirana
Mr. Jeevan Thyiagarajah