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Chaitanya Chauhan asked: What is the difference between the 13th and 13A and between the 18th and 19th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution? What is India's stand on them?

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  • Gulbin Sultana replies: There is no difference between the 13th and 13A Amendment. For details on 13th Amendment (13 A) and also for India’s stand on the same, please refer to my earlier replies posted in this section (click here and click here)

    The 18thAmendment Bill, passed by the Sri Lankan Parliament on September 08, 2010, with 161 members of parliament voting for and 17 against it, was basically an amendment to the 17thAmendment, which the Mahinda Rajapakse Government (November 2005-January 2015) considered as “ineffective and impractical.” 

    The key highlights of the 18th Amendment were:

    1. The president could seek re-election any number of times;
    2. The ten-member constitutional council was replaced with a five-member parliamentary council;
    3. Independent commissions were brought under the authority of the president; and
    4. The president shall attend the parliament once in every three months and shall be entitled to all the privileges, immunities and powers of a member of parliament, other than the entitlement to vote.

    In short, the 18th Amendment gave the president full control over the executive, legislature and the judiciary. It made the president all powerful in the absence of any sound mechanism of checks and balances, which is absolutely necessary for a responsive democracy. For more on the 18th Amendment, please refer to my commentary “18th Amendment: Making a Mockery of Democracy in Sri Lanka”.

    Realising the negative impact of the 18th Amendment, the National Unity Government of Sri Lanka, formed in January 2015, introduced the 19th Amendment Bill in the parliament to amend the provisions introduced through the 18th Amendment as well as some additional provisions in the constitution. The bill was passed by the parliament on April 28, 2015 and finally certified as law on May 15, 2015.

    The 19th Amendment brought the following changes to the18th Amendment:

    1. A two-term limit for the president was re-introduced. In other words, “No person who has been twice elected to the office of President, shall be qualified thereafter to be elected to such office by the People”;
    2. The five-member parliamentary council was replaced with the earlier ten-member constitutional council; and
    3. Members of the independent commissions cannot be appointed or removed by the president without the approval of the constitutional council.

    In addition to the above, several other amendments have been made to the constitution further diluting the discretionary powers of the president. For details, please see the full text of the 19th Amendment.

    India did not make any official comment on the 18th or the 19th Amendment as these amendments are an internal matter of Sri Lanka.

    Posted on February 29, 2016