Sri Lanka's top court says China-backed Port City Bill 'inconsistent' with Constitution

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Representative image

Colombo [Sri Lanka], May 18 (ANI): Sri Lanka's Supreme Court on Tuesday determined that some clauses in the China-backed Port City Economic Commission Bill are "inconsistent" with the country's Constitution. However, the top court added that these clauses can be made valid if amended.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena told Parliament that the apex court had determined that certain provisions of the Port City Economic Commission Bill are inconsistent with the Constitution, and directed that those clauses required to be passed by a special majority and a referendum as they were unconstitutional, Colombo Page reported.

The decision of the top court was handed over to the Speaker recently after considering 19 petitions filed against the proposed bill.

The Port City Bill was tabled in the Parliament on April 8, after which 19 petitions were filed in the SC. Following the apex court's verdict on these petitions, a parliament debate will be held on May 19 and 20.

The Port City Colombo is a joint venture between Sri Lanka and China. The bill seeks to establish a special commission that will govern the city as a Special Economic Zone (SEZ).

The government has unveiled a contentious draft law for a Colombo Port City Commission which allows for sweeping tax breaks, tax-free salaries and an offshore financial centre.

The USD 1.4-billion Colombo Port City project is slated to be the single largest private sector development in Sri Lanka amid concerns about Beijing seeking to increase its footprint in the country through contentious infrastructure projects.

Sri Lanka has already leased Hambantota port to the Chinese state-run company for a period of 99 years, a move that has caused concern in neighbouring India. (ANI)