The Supreme Court (SC) declared this week that advocating for a federal form of government within the existing state could not be considered as advocating separatism and that the Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) does not, support, espouse, promote, finance, encourage or advocate the establishment of a separate state within the territory of Sri Lanka as envisaged under Article 157A of the Constitution. Dismissing the petition filed by H. K. Don Chandrasoma of Kelaniya who sought a Court order declaring that ITAK is a political party which has as one of its “aims” and “objects” the establishment of a separate state within the territory of Sri Lanka, the three-member SC bench said, “ITAK is advocating for a federalist form of government by devolving more powers to the provinces within the framework of a
unitary state,” adding that “advocating for a federal form of government within the existing state could not be considered advocating separatism.”
The bench comprised Chief Justice Prasanth Dep, Justice Uppal Abeyrathne and Justice Anil Goonertane.
In the landmark ruling, the SC said the labelling of states as unitary and federal sometimes may be misleading.
“There could be unitary states with features or attributes of a federal state and vice versa. In a unitary state, if more powers are given to the units it could be considered a federal state. Similarly, in a federal state, if the Center is powerful and the power is concentrated in the Centre it could be considered a unitary state. Therefore, sharing of sovereignty, devolution of power and decentralisation will pave the way for a federal form of government within a unitary state,” the Court said. It cited the 13th Amendment to the Constitution as an instance where power was devolved to the provinces.
The case was filed on April 2016 and decided on 4 August, 2017.The Petitioner sought a declaration under and in terms of Article 157A (4) of the Constitution (as amended by the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution) of Sri Lanka. He cited ITAK Secretary Mawai S. Senathirajah, Commissioner of Elections Mahinda Deshapriya and the Attorney General as respondents.