The Supreme Court recently upheld a judgment delivered by the Court of Appeal to dismiss a writ petition filed by the Chairman of Embilipitiya Urban Council, seeking an order to quash the decision of the Sabaragamuwa Province Governor to suspend him from the office of the Chairman.

Sabaragamuwa Province Governor Tikiri Kobbekaduwa exercising powers vested in him under Section 184(1B) of the Local Government Ordinance, made an order suspending Lalith Dharmakeerthi from the post of Embilipitiya Urban Council Chairman on January 15, 2021, considering several irregularities allegedly committed by Urban Council Chairman.

The petitioner contested the Kalagediara ward of the Embilipitiya Urban Council from the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) at the Local Government elections held in February 2018.

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices Priyantha Jayawardena, Preethi Padman Surasena and Mahinda Samayawardena decided to dismiss the special leave application filed by Embilipitiya Urban Council Chairman after perusing the submissions.

President’s Counsel Faizer Musthapha PC appearing on behalf of the petitioner, made strenuous submissions before the Supreme Court stating that the order of the President of the Court Appeal Arjuna Obeysekera, failed to consider mala fide actions of Governor Tikiri Kobbekaduwa.

Additional Solicitor General Sumathi Dharmawardena, PC appearing for the Sabaragamuwa Province Governor, submitted that the Petitioner’s conduct and behaviour displayed a complete breakdown of the affairs of the administration of the Urban Council and that the 1st Respondent-Governor had to take steps to suspend the Petitioner and conduct an inquiry to control the maladministration and the rapidly deteriorating state of affairs.

Then-President of the Court of Appeal Justice Obeysekera held that suspension of Chairman of Embilipitiya Urban Council falls within the accepted more liberal for judicial review as reflected in Tameside case as opposed to the more rigorous standard laid down in the legal principle of Wednesbury reasonableness. In the Judgment, he stated “There is however growing precedent to show that English Courts have attempted to reduce the rigour of “Wednesbury unreasonableness” over the years. The case of Secretary of State for Education and Science v Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council, 6 decided before the GCHQ case provides for what can be considered a more balanced test”.

During the Court of Appeal hearing,  Counsel Faizer Musthapha PC stated that there is no basis to present any charges against his client and further added that the charges do not warrant an inquiry being held or the Petitioner being suspended from the Office of Chairman.

However, Additional Solicitor General Sumathi Dharmawardena had submitted to the Court of Appeal that a group of seven Councillors had complained to the Assistant Commissioner of Local Government of several matters involving fraud, misappropriation and financial mismanagement in the Urban Council under the leadership of the petitioner.

Dharmawardena further submitted that the charge sheet was reflective of the willful neglect and misconduct in the performance of the Petitioner’s duties as Chairman. He further submitted that the Petitioner’s conduct demonstrates a lack of transparency in decision making, which is demonstrated by how the Petitioner functioned as a member of both the Technical Evaluation Committee and the Procurement Committee.

In a judgment dated June 3, 2021, the Court of Appeal two-judge-bench comprising Justice (President) Arjuna Obeysekera and Justice Mayadunne Corea held that the decision of the Sabaragamuwa Province Governor to suspend the Urban Council Chairman is reasonable.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here