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Legal System of SriLanaka.
As a professional “Civil Engineering & QuantitySurveying” we should aware
aboutthe legal system in srilanka because always we are dealing with society.
Therefore sometimes people may do wrong things. Thethings are
regarding wrong thingsare influence or affected to the other people. To protect
influence in other people by doing wrong thingswe can follow ethics. But most of
people do not worry aboutthis.
Hence this legal system in srilanka does the importantroll to control
our self. Hence our legal system in srilanka is based mainlyfollowings for legal
They are follows,
Muslim special law.
Generally applies in Sri Lanka when statutes and indigenous
laws do not regulate the issue in question.Roman-Dutch Law represents in Sri
Lanka an inherited legal tradition.It has co-existed withseveral systems
ofindigenouslaws, and the English common law, creating a “distinct legal culture
that is described today as a ‘mixed’ civil and common law system.”
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In the 18th century, Roman-Dutch law wasincreasingly used in the south-
west and the south.As a consequence, private property (land) rightsspread rapidly
in these areas, and property transfer were subject Roman-Dutch law.In fact, when
the British themselves declared Roman-Dutchlawasthe common law of Ceylon,
Roman-Dutchlawassumed even greater importance underthe British than it had
enjoyed underDutch rule of Ceylon.
KandyanLaw appliesto ethnic Sinhalesewhose can trace their
lineage back to the Kandyan provinces during the period of the Kandyan
monarchyin central Sri Lanka. TheKandyan monarchyceased to exist with the
Britishtakeover of central Sri Lanka in 1815.
KandyanLaw does not apply to all Sinhalesewho are now
resident in the Kandyanprovinces;
However, KandyanLaw does applyto KandyanSinhalesewhonow do not
reside in the Kandyanprovinces in central Sri Lanka.KandyanLaw thatremains
applicableto KandyanSinhalesein present day Sri Lanka relates to marriage,
divorce,and interstate succession.
KandyanSinhalesehavethe option of choosing to
marry under the Marriageand Divorce (Kandyan) Act, or theGeneral Marriage
Ordinance. Kandyan Sinhalesewhochooses to marry underthe Kandyan Act will
be governedby Kandyan law in matters relating to marriage, divorce and interstate
succession by virtue of the KandyanLawOrdinance, as well as the Kandyan
Matrimonialand Inheritance Ordinance.Kandyan lawson adoption are also
applicableto those who marry underKandyan Law.
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TheswalamaiLaw is based on ancientcustoms of Jaffna
Tamils in Sri Lanka. It applies to Tamilinhabitantsof the Jaffna Peninsula in
Northern Sri Lanka. This customary and personal law also applies to numerous
Jaffna Tamils who no longer live in the Jaffna Peninsula.
It is a commonly held belief among manyin Sri Lanka that
Thesawalamaiappliesonly to Jaffna Tamilswho reside in the Jaffna peninsula.
The SupremeCourt of Sri Lanka, however, ruled in a 1988 case,“Sivagnanalingam
v.Suntheralingam” thatThesawalamaiis a personal law that applies to Jaffna
Tamils wherever they live in thecountry, and that it applies also to their movable
and immovableproperty, wherever it is situated in the country.
The SupremeCourt, overturning decisions of the lower courts, held
that Thesawalamaiwould not applyto Jaffna Tamilsonly if there is “unequivocal
evidence of abandonmentof inhabitancyin Jaffna.”ThisSupremeCourt ruling
suggests that a Jaffna Tamilcould live for decadesin anotherpart of the country
and not lose “Jaffna inhabitancy” if he or she, for instance, continues to
ownproperty in the Jaffna Peninsula, or even visits Jaffna on a somewhatregular
basis. Theruling also indicates thateach case must depend on its own facts.
The only Thesawalamailawsthat are now applicableto Jaffna Tamils
relate to property and interstate succession resulting from marriage.
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Muslim special law.
Muslim SpecialLawsapply to all Muslims in Sri Lanka. When a
Muslim marries another Muslim, the bride and the groom do not have the option of
getting married under the General Law, unlike in the case of KandyanSinhalese.
Marriage, divorce and other related issues involving Muslims are governed by the
Marriageand Divorce (Muslim) Act, no.13 of 1951.
Issues related to interstate succession and donations, involving
Muslims, are dealt with underthe Muslim Interstate Succession OrdinanceNo.10
of 1931, and anysubsequentamendments.
UnderMuslim personal laws, for instance,
“Although section 25 (1) (b) of the Muslim Marriageand Divorce Act states that
the consent of the bride is essential to a marriage, in reality her presence is not
required when the marriagecontract is concluded between the father or guardian
of the bride, and the groom. Theconsent of the bride is irrelevant to the conclusion
of the marriagecontract.
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Structure of the Courts System
The court structure consists in Srilanka as follows,
Court of Appeal,
Additionally, there are numeroustribunals, etc.
There are two types of cases that are involved in the structure of the court system
2. Civil case.
In cases involving criminallaw, a Magistrate’s Court or a High Court is the only
court with primary jurisdiction; Therespective legal domainsof each are provided
in the Code of CriminalProcedure.
Murder trials and various offenses againstthe State originate in a High Court (see
section on High Courts).
Originaljurisdiction over most civil matters lies with the relevant District Court
(see section on District Courts).
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Criminal law: An offence against state, which is prohibited by Law under
pain of punishment.
o Excise ordinance.
o Prevention of Terrorism Act.
o DangerousDrugsOrdinance. Etc.
Civil law: Wrongs done againstpersons. (Land, commercial, family matters).
Differences between civil and criminal offences.
• Against a person. • Against state.
• Person files action in a civil court
(According to civil procedure
• State files action in a criminal
court (According to criminal
• Recovers damages. • Imprisonment, fine, whipping
• Decided on the weightof
• Have to be proved beyond
• E.g.:Non- payment of rent.
Most of medical negligenceetc.
Murder, Rape, Infanticide,
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The Supreme Court.
The SupremeCourt is the highestand final court
of record, and exercises final civil and criminalappellate jurisdiction.
Litigantswho do not agree with a decision of the original court, be it civil,
criminal, or Court of Appeal, maytake the case before the SupremeCourt, with
permission from the Court of Appeal, or special permission from theSupreme
Court. The SupremeCourt, however, will only agree to consider cases involving a
The SupremeCourt is composed of a Chief Justice and not less than six, and not
more than ten, other judges.
Appointed by the President.
Hear cases of
Appeals from lower courts
Breach of privilege of parliament
Any other matter vested upon by parliament.
Consultation Jurisdiction to president/speaker.
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Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal is the first appellatecourt for
decisions of all original courts and certain Tribunals.
The Court of Appeal is composed of the President of the Court, and not less than
six, and not more than elevenother judges. Manycases at the Court of Appealare
presided over by a single judge.
The Court of Appeal hears appealsagainst
judgmentsof the High Courts. It exercises appellatejurisdiction for the correction
of errors in fact or in law at a High Court, or any Court of first instance, or
Tribunal, or other Institution.In addition to the jurisdiction to affirm, reverse,
correct, or modify a judgment, theCourt of Appealmay givedirections to a Court
of first instance, Tribunal, or other Institution, or order a new trial, or order
additionalhearingsasthe Court of Appeal deems appropriate.
• Examinerecords of courts of 1st instance.
• Issue writs, (e.g. Mandamus).
• Issue HabeasCorpusorders.
• Issue injunctions.
• Try Election Petitions.
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Trials at a High Court are conducted by the State (Sri Lanka), through
the Attorney General’s Department. TheAttorney General’s Department
prosecutes on behalfof the State.
Murder trials and various offenses againstthe State are tried at the High Court;
Other criminal offenses are tried at a Magistrate’s Court.TheHigh Court is
composed of not less than ten and not more than forty judges.Whilesome High
Court trials will have a jury, some trials will not have a jury. The types of cases
that require a jury are provided in the Second Scheduleof the JudicatureAct No.2
of 1978. Also, the Attorney General hasthe authority to determine whethera case
that does not fall into a category provided in the Second Scheduleof the Judicature
Act No.2 of 1978 should nonetheless havea jury. This Court sits in 16 provinces in
the country (16 High Courts).
District Courts are the Courts of first instance for civil cases.
District Courts have jurisdiction over all civil cases not expressly assigned to the
Primary Court or a Magistrate’s Court.
Cases related to ownership of land.
Action by landlordsto eject tenants.
Action to recover debts of more than Rs. 1,500.
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Action in connection with trademark and patentrights, and infringementof
Claims for compensation of more than Rs. 1, 500 for injuries caused by
Divorce cases (Formerly, divorce cases were handled bythe now defunct
The Magistrate’s Courts are established under the
Judicature Act, No.2 of 1978.
Each Judicial division has one Magistrate’s Court, and there are 74
judicial divisions in Sri Lanka. Each Magistrate’s Court is vested with
original jurisdiction over criminal offenses (other than offenses
committed after indictment in the High Court.)
Prosecution conducted by police.
2 types of proceedings
Summaryproceedings:for most of crimes heard at Magistrate’s Court.
Non-SummaryProceedings:For Murder, Rapeand any other offence when
Attorney General thinks so.
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Magistrate holds a preliminary inquiry
Does not passa verdict. At the end of the inquiry, if magistrate
thinks that there is enough ground for the case to be heard in high court,
case is palmed over to Attorney General whoprosecutes through state
councils in high court.
Minor civil and criminal matters.ThePrimary Courts are
established underthe Judicature Act, No.2 of 1978.
There are seven Primary Courts: Oneeach in Anamaduwa, Angunukolapelessa,
Kandy, Mallakam,Pilessa, Wellawaya and Wennappuwa.
In all other divisions, the Magistrate’s Court exercises the
jurisdiction of the Primary Courts. Requests for revision of orders madeby a
Primary Court are handled bythe High Court in that province.
All Primary Court judgesare appointed bythe Judicial Service Commission (JSC),
which is also vested with the power of dismissal of the Primary Court judges
Generally, the retirement age for Primary Court judges is 60 years.
Apart from this hierarchy of the Courts as set out above there
are a numberof Administrative Tribunalssuch as the Rent Board of Review, Rent
Boards, Ceiling on Housing Property Board of Review, Land Acquisition Board of
Review, Agricultural Tribunals, Court Martials, LabourTribunals, which perform
functions of a quasi‐judicialnature. Theirdecisions are capableof revision by the
Appellate Courts by way of Writs or appealsas provided by the various
enactment's by which each of these Tribunalshave been established.