Constitutional adjudication on the basic structure doctrine in Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, basic structure arguments have been categorically rejected by the Supreme Court. The Court’s over-reliance on the compliance of the procedural requirements has undermined the effects of the substance of these amendments on the country’s constitutional order. Central to this judicial approach is the emphasis on popular sovereignty. As a result, once procedural requirements are fulfilled, unfettered power to amendability has judicially been established – at times, to the detriment of constitutionalism in Sri Lanka.

My paper examines the recent Twentieth Amendment determination of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka and aims to explore its reasoning and rejection of the basic structure doctrine. In doing so, the paper will demonstrate the emphasis on popular sovereignty in the majority-ethnicity-dominant state which has been reflected in the constitutional amendment rules that stand at odds with the multi-ethnic, multi-religious character of Sri Lanka.