Judiciary of Sri Lanka

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Coat of arms of Sri Lanka, showing a lion holding a sword in its right forepaw surrounded by a ring made from blue lotus petals which is placed on top of a grain vase sprouting rice grains to encircle it. A Dharmacakra is on the top while a sun and moon are at the bottom on each side of the vase.
This article is part of a series on the
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Sri Lanka

The Judiciary of Sri Lanka are the civil and criminal courts responsible for the administration of justice in Sri Lanka. The Constitution of Sri Lanka defines courts as independent institutions within the traditional framework of checks and balances. They apply Sri Lankan Law which is an amalgam of English common law, Roman-Dutch civil law and Customary Law; and are established under the Judicature Act No 02 of 1978 of the Parliament of Sri Lanka.[1]

The judiciary consist of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Court, the District Court, the Magistrate's Court, Primary Court and Labour Tribunals. Although provisions are there for trials for serious offences to be held before a jury, at present all cases are heard before professional judges.[1]


The Supreme Court Complex
Main article: Law of Sri Lanka

The current system of courts are defined by the Judicature Act No 02 of 1978. However, the modern form of European form of justice originated during the Dutch colonial occupation of the coastal areas of Sri Lanka in the nineteenth century. Local forms of civil and criminal law as well as system of courts, existed for centuries prior to the European colonization.


Supreme Court[edit]

The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka is the highest judicial instance and final court of appeal.[1][2] It is composed of the Chief Justice and not less than six and not more than ten Puisne Justices. Judges are appointed by the President with the nomination of the Parliamentary Council and serve for a lifetime period (65). The Supreme Court is the final appellate Court and has jurisdiction in constitutional matters.

Court of Appeal[edit]

The Court of Appeal hears all appeals from the High Court and courts of first instance. The court is composed of the President of the Court and not less than six and not more than eleven other Judges.

High Courts[edit]

The High Court has jurisdiction in criminal matters.[1]

District Courts[edit]

The district courts in civil matters.[1]

First Instance Courts[edit]

Magistrate's Courts[edit]

Primary Courts[edit]

Labour Tribunal[edit]

Main article: Labour Tribunal



Judges for the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and High Courts are appointed by the President of Sri Lanka, acting on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission. However the President is not bound to follow the advice of the Judicial Service Commission and may decide to appoint other qualified individuals. Appointments to the lower courts such as District Courts and First Instance Courts are made by the Judicial Service Commission from the Judicial Service. Judicial appointments are frequently thought to be politically motivated.[3]

Traditionally judges are Attorneys at law, while retired judges of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal does not practice law after retirement.

International relationships[edit]

Relationship with the International Criminal Court[edit]

The Sri Lankan Government has stated that it has no intention of joining the International Criminal Court.[4]

Former Courts[edit]

Several forms of courts of law have been abolished or replaced over the years;[5]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]