President's Counsel

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Not to be confused with Office of Counsel to the President.

President's Counsel (postnominal PC) is an eminent lawyer who is appointed by the President of Sri Lanka to be one of "President's Counsel learned in the law". The term is also recognized as an honorific which replaced the practice of appointment of Queen's Counsel (QC) which ceased when Sri Lanka became a republic in 1972. It is equivalent to the appointment of Queen's Counsel in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth jurisdictions and derives the same privileges such as the privilege of sitting within the Bar of court.

President's Counsel is a professional rank and status, conferred by the President under the Article 33 of the Constitution of Sri Lanka which is recognised by courts. It does not entail the title holder to be a state prosecutor or employed by the state or part of the office of the President. Appointments are made from Attorneys-at-Law who have practiced as counsel in original and appellate courts for many years either in the official or unofficial bar.


The appointment is made by the President by letters patent and the appointee make a declaration before the President. Thereafter they are welcomed in court at a ceremonial sittings of the Supreme Court.


President's Counsel's court dress is similar to that of Queen's Counsels. It includes a silk gown with a flap collar and long closed sleeves (the arm opening is half-way up the sleeve). Therefore, the term "taken silk" continues. On special ceremonial occasions (such as ceremonial sittings of the Supreme Court), PCs also wear a long wig.


In 1903, Frederick Dornhorst, Ponnambalam Ramanathan and Thomas De Sampayo were sworn in as the first King's Counsels in the island of Ceylon, which was a British colony at the time. Since then eminent lawyers who were advocates were appointed as King's Counsel until the title changed to Queen's Counsel with the change of monarch. When Ceylon became a republic in 1972, appointments of QCs was not possible and equivalent of "Senior Attorney-at-Law" used.

In 1984, with the 8th amendment to the Constitution of 1978, the paragraph (cc) was added to the Article 33 (which details the powers and the privileges of the President) of the Constitution, granting the President powers to appoint "as President’s Counsel, attorneys-at-law who have reached eminence in the profession and have maintained high standards of conduct and professional rectitude." It also grants President’s Counsel "all such privileges as were hitherto enjoyed by Queen’s Counsel". The holder can use the post-nominal letters PC after his or her name.[1]

Notable President's Counsels[edit]

List of Senior Attorneys-at-Law[edit]

Following the 8th amendment to the Constitution, Senior Attorneys-at-Law were reappointed as PCs.


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