Three petitioners, including Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara and Parliamentarian Prof. G.L. Peiris, filed a Special Determination Petition in the Supreme Court today challenging the constitutionality of the Online Safety Bill.

Through this petition, the petitioners, Ranjith Madduma Bandara, Prof. G.L. Peiris, and the Chairman of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya Youth Wing, Rehan Jayawickrema, are seeking a declaration that the bill requires the approval of the people at a referendum in addition to the 2/3 approval of the Parliament.

The petitioners said prohibiting and penalising anonymous social media accounts under the provisions of the bill would severely stifle freedom of speech and expression and violate the provisions of Article 14(1) of the Constitution.

They said the proposed bill would penalise conduct that is already an offence under existing statutes, thereby setting up a parallel and more severe legal framework and therefore violating Article 12(1) of the Constitution.

The petitioners maintained that the bill in its entirety violates Article 4 of the Constitution in that several clauses of the bill empower the Online Safety Commission to determine the rights of citizens and to impose obligations, whose power is part of the judicial power of the people.

The Online Safety Bill was published in the Gazette on September 15, 2023, and placed on the Order Paper of Parliament on October 3, 2023.