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Media Law Forum Challenges Sri Lanka Telecommunications (Amendment) Bill in Supreme Court

A Special Determination petition has been filed before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the Sri Lanka Telecommunications (Amendment) Bill, recently placed on Parliament’s Order Paper.

Media Law Forum (Guarantee) Limited filed the petition, alleging that the Bill’s structure appears to be an effort to curtail expressions of opinion that diverge from the government’s stance.

The petitioner seeks a declaration that the Bill requires approval by the people through a referendum, in addition to a two-thirds approval by Parliament.

The petition challenges the Bill’s constitutionality, arguing that it falls outside the Constitution’s scope. It highlights Clause 4, which introduces new provisions under Section 6A, granting the Commission authority to approve or determine tariffs. The petitioner contends that this broad authority could be abused to favor certain operators, undermining market fairness and neutrality.

Under the proposed Section 6A (2) and (3), the consideration of government policy in tariff approvals could lead to politically motivated decisions misaligned with market realities or consumer interests. Conditions based on provided facilities or services could result in unequal treatment of different providers.

The petition also addresses Clause 8, which adds Section 9A to the Principal Act, granting the Commission extensive powers to investigate and intervene in anti-competitive practices, abuse of dominant positions, merger situations, and market network access. The provision allows investigations to be carried out in any manner deemed necessary, raising concerns about potential overreach.

Further concerns are raised regarding Section 33 of the Bill, which proposes new Sections 59A and 59B, criminalizing the willful act of making a telephone call or sending a message with the intention of causing public commotion or disrupting public tranquility.

Lastly, the petition highlights Section 3B of the Telecommunications Regulations, granting the Commission the authority to revoke, vary, or withdraw any radio frequency after providing written notice to the relevant person.

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