The Sri Lanka Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the suspension of President Maithripala Sirisena's decision to dissolve Parliament and ordered a halt to preparations for snap elections on January 5.
A three-member bench, including country's chief justice Nalin Perera, delivered its ruling after two days of deliberations on as many as 13 petitions against and five for Sirisena's November 9 decision to dissolve Parliament, nearly two years before the its term was to end.
Sri Lanka's main political parties on Monday had filed petitions challenging President Sirisena's sacking of parliament and urged the Supreme Court to restore the legislature. Three parties, which together enjoy an absolute majority in the assembly, had also asked the highest court to also declare Sirisena's October 26 sacking of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe illegal.
Sri Lanka has been gripped by an unprecedented constitutional crisis since Sirisena appointed former strongman Mahinda Rajapakse to replace Wickremesinghe, who insists he is still prime minister. Sirisena dissolved Parliament after it became clear that he lacked support from lawmakers to instal former strongman Rajapaksa as the new prime Minister following his October 26 sacking of Ranil Wickremesinghe as premier. All petitions filed against Sirisena's decision will be heard on December 4, 5 and 6, the apex court ruled, according to the opposition party officials attending the hearing held under tight security.
On Sunday, Sri Lanka's parliamentary Speaker accused Sirisena of "usurping" the rights of legislators and asked public servants not to carry out his "illegal orders". Karu Jayasuriya in a hard-hitting statement said Sirisena's actions since October 26 to sack Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and dissolve parliament undermined the freedoms of the people. "I have watched over the last two weeks as the executive branch has seized the rights and usurped the powers of members of parliament who were elected to represent the people.
"I call upon all public servants to refuse to execute any illegal orders they may receive, no matter from whom."
Sirisena dissolved Parliament and ordered snap election on January 5, plunging the country's into an unprecedented political and constitutional crises. Rajapaksa needed the support of minimum 113 parliamentarians in the 225-member House to prove his majority. Wickremesinghe has maintained that his sacking by Sirisena was unconstitutional and illegal and was still the prime minister. Sirisena on Sunday stoutly defended his move to dissolve Parliament, saying it was taken to prevent clashes among rival lawmakers. He said there were reports that politicians would clash during the floor test, which was due on November 14.
(With AFP inputs)