JUDICATURE ACT

Arrangement of Sections

1. Short title.

CHAPTER I

COURTS AND THEIR TERRITORIAL LIMITS

2. The Courts of First Instance.

3. Division of Sri Lanka for judicial purposes.

CHAPTER II

ESTABLISHMENT OF THE COURTS OF FIRST INSTANCE

4. Composition of the High Court.

5. District Courts, Small Claims Courts and Magistrates' Courts.

5A. Judicial day.

5B. Appointment of the Master.

5C. Appointment of the recorder.

6. Appointment retirement of Judges.

7. Salaries of the Judges of the High Court.

8. Appointment of additional Judges.

CHAPTER III

THE HIGH COURT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SRI LANKA

9. Criminal jurisdiction.

10. Sentence.

11. Trial by Jury.

12. Trials at Bar.

13. Admiralty jurisdiction.

14. Right of appeal in criminal cases.

15. Right of the Attorney-General to appeal in criminal cases.

16. Right of party aggrieved to appeal in criminal cases.

17. Sittings of the High Court.

18. Contempt of High Court.

CHAPTER IV

DISTRICT COURTS

19. Jurisdiction of District Courts.

19A. Civil jurisdiction.

20. Custody of persons and estates of idiots, persons of unsound mind.

21. Testamentary Jurisdiction.

22. Transfer of Testamentary cases.

23. Appeal.

CHAPTER V

SMALL CLAIMS COURTS

24. Jurisdiction of Small Claims Courts.

25. Costs.

26. Appeal.

27. Where defence or claim in reconvention is beyond jurisdiction of court.

28. Judge of Small Claims Court to execute judgments in appeal.

29. Where value of action is beyond jurisdiction of court.

30. Amicable settlement.

CHAPTER VI

MAGISTRATES' COURTS

30. Powers and jurisdiction.

31. Right of appeal.

CHAPTER VII

[Repealed]

32. Repealed.

33. Repealed.

34. Repealed.

35. Repealed.

36. Repealed.

CHAPTER VIII

GENERAL PROVISIONS

37. Right of appeal to the Supreme Court.

38. Courts of First Instance to execute judgments in appeal.

39. Objection to jurisdiction.

40. Attorneys-at-law.

41. Right of representation.

42. Refusal to admit, suspension and removal of Attorney-at-law.

43. Inquiry by disciplinary committee into alleged misconduct of Attorney-at-law.

44. Disciplinary Committees.

45. Justices of the Peace and Unofficial Magistrates.

46. Transfer of cases.

47. Power of Attorney-General to decide court or place at which inquiry or trial should be held.

48. Provision for continuing any case begun before a Judge becoming disabled.

49. Provisions for hearing of cases where Judge is a party.

50. Conviction or acquittal no bar to any civil action.

51. In what court offences declared punishable by fines or imprisonment generally may be tried.

52. Registrar and other officers of Courts of First instance.

53. Ministerial acts in absence of officers.

54. Injunctions.

55. Contempt proceedings.

56. Transitional provisions.

57. Repealed.

58. Operation of the territorial limits and the Jurisdiction of Court.

59. Court to make appropriate orders in certain matters.

60. Nomination of courts for special categories of cases.

60A. Effect of an Order under section 3.

61. Regulations.

62. Omitted.

63. Interpretation.

SCHEDULES

2 of 1978,

37 of 1979,

71 of 1981,

35 of 1983,

36 of 1983,

50 of 1985,

16 of 1989,

29 of 1991,

30 of 1991,

27 of 1998,

27 of 1999,

31 of 2007,

10 of 2010.

AN ACT to provide for the establishment and constitution of a system of courts of first instance in terms of article 105(1) of the constitution, to define the jurisdiction of and to regulate the procedure in and before such courts and to provide for matters connected with or incidental to the matters aforesaid.

[Date of Commencement: 2nd July, 1979]

1. Short title.

This Act may be cited as the Judicature Act.

CHAPTER I

Courts and Their Territorial Limits

2. The Courts of First Instance.

The Courts of First Instance for the administration of justice in the Republic of Sri Lanka shall be—

(a) the High Court of the Republic of Sri Lanka;

(b) the District Courts;

[S 2(b) subs by s 2 of Act 16 of 1989.]

(c) the Small Claims Courts;

[S 2(c) subs by s 2 of Act 16 of 1989.]

(d) the Magistrates' Courts;

[S 2(d) subs by s 2 of Act 16 of 1989.]

(e) .

[S 2(e) rep by s 2 of Act 18 of 1989.]

3. Division of Sri Lanka for judicial purposes.

For the purpose of the administration of justice Sri Lanka shall be divided into judicial zones, Judicial districts and Judicial divisions within such territorial limits as may in consultation with the Chief Justice and the President of the Court of Appeal from time to time be determined by the Minister by Order published in the Gazette:

Provided that the judicial zones, districts and divisions and their respective territorial limits as were in existence on the day preceding the date on which the provisions of this section are brought into operation1 shall continue to be the zones, districts and divisions and their respective territorial limits under this Act until such Order of the Minister is published in the Gazette.

CHAPTER II

Establishment of the Courts of First Instance

4. Composition of the High Court.

The High Court of the Republic of Sri Lanka shall be a Court of record and shall consist of—

(a) not less than ten and not more than seventy five Judges, each of whom shall be known as a "Judge of the High Court”;

[S 4(a) am by s 2 of Act 31 of 2007; s 2 of Act 10 of 2010.]

(b) such Commissioners of the High Court as are appointed under Article 111A of the Constitution.

[S 4 subs by s 2 of Act 35 of 1983.]

5. District Courts, Small Claims Courts and Magistrates' Courts.

(1) There shall be in such judicial district of Sri Lanka a "District Court” and in every judicial division there shall be a "Small Claims Court” and "Magistrates' Court” and each such court shall be holden by and before one person to be called the "District Judge”, "Judge of the Small Claims Court” and "Magistrate” respectively.

[S 5(1) subs by s 4(a) of Act 16 of 1989.]

(2) .

[S 5(2) rep by s 3 of Act 71 of 1981.]

(3) Each court referred to in subsection (1) may be held at such convenient place or places within such judicial district or division, as the case may be, as the Minister shall by regulation from time to time appoint:

Provided that nothing in this section shall be construed to restrict or curtail the power possessed by every Judge to hold court at any convenient place within his territorial jurisdiction.

5A. Judicial day.

(1) For the purpose of sittings for conducting trials and inquiries in every Court of First Instance a working calendar day shall be divided into two judicial days, each such judicial day beginning not later than 9.45 am and 1.15 pm respectively.

(2) Trials and inquiries shall be fixed for every web.

(3) Every such judicial day shall, for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2) consist of a sitting in open court of a minimum duration of two and a half hours.

(4) Where any Judge of any Court of First instance is unable to comply with the provisions of this section he shall record the reasons for such inability and shall forthwith forward a copy of such reasons to the Judicial Service Commission.

[S 5A ins by s 5 of Act 16 of 1989.]

5B. Appointment of the Master.

(1) There shall be appointed to every such court as may be specified by the Minister by Order published in the Gazette, in consultation with the Chief Justice, an officer to be called the Master.

(2) The Master shall sit separately and exercise all the powers or jurisdiction vested in him by subsection (3).

(3) The Master shall attend to and deal with all pre-trial and post-trial matter as arise in the course of a civil proceeding instituted in the court to which he is appointed, including the framing of issues and the recording of admissions:

Provided that it shall be competent for the trial Judge to record such admissions and frame such issues, whether by way of amendment of existing issues or otherwise, as may be considered to be appropriate during the conduct of the trial before; him.

(4) The Master may, with the concurrence of the Judge of the court, submit for determination by such judge any matter which may otherwise have been properly deal with by him.

(5) The judge of any court may refer to the Master any matter of a procedural nature arising in the course of an action instituted in that court after the stage referred to in subsection (3).

(6) The Master shall have the power to do all such acts connected with or incidental or ancillary to, the exercise of the powers and jurisdiction vested in him by
subsection (3), including the maintenance of the Journals of the Court.

[S 5B ins by s 5 of Act 16 of 1989.]

5C. Appointment of the recorder.

(1) There shall be appointed to every court as may be specified by the Minister by Order published in the Gazette, in consultation with the Chief Justice, an officer to be called the Recorder.

(2) The Recorder shall sit separately and exercise all the powers or jurisdiction vested in him by subsection (3).

(3) The Recorder shall attend to and deal with all pre-trial and post-trial matters not including sentencing as arise in the course of a criminal proceeding instituted in the Court to which he is appointed, including the recording of admissions and confessions: Nothing in this section shall prejudice the powers of the trial judge to record such admissions as may be considered to be appropriate during the conduct of the trial before him.

(4) The provisions of subsections (4), (5) and (6) of section 5B shall, mutatis mutandis, apply to and in relation to, the powers and functions of a Recorder appointed under subsection (1).

[S 5C ins by s 5 of Act 16 of 1989.]

6. Appointment retirement of Judges.

(1) Every District Judge, Judge of the Small Claims Court and Magistrate and all such Additional Judges and Magistrates of such courts shall be appointed to their offices by the Judicial Service Commission.

[S 6(1) subs by s 4 of Act 71 of 1981; am by s 6 of Act 16 of 1989.]

(2) Every person appointed to be or to act as a Judge or Magistrate, as the case may be, of a Court of First Instance shall before he enters upon his office take and subscribe or make and subscribe the oath or affirmation of office prescribed in the First Schedule hereto.

(3) The age of retirement of a Judge of the High Court (other than a Commissioner of the High Court appointed under Article 111A of the Constitution) shall be sixty-one years.

[S 6(3) subs by s 3 of Act 35 of 1983.]

(4) The age of retirement of all other Judges and Magistrates shall be as provided by rules made under the Public and Judicial Officers (Retirement) Ordinance.

7. Salaries of the Judges of the High Court.

The salaries of the Judges of the High Court shall be charged on the Consolidated Fund.

8. Appointment of additional Judges.

(1) The Judicial Service Commission may appoint as many Additional District Judges, Judges of the Small Claims Court and Magistrate's Court respectively in as the occasion may require.

[S 8(1) subs by s 5 of Act 71 of 1981; am by s 7(a) of Act 16 of 1989.]

(2) Every Additional District Judge, Judge of the Small Claims Court or Magistrate appointed to any such Court, shall sit separately and exercise all the powers and the jurisdiction vested in the District Court, the Small Claims Court or the Magistrate's Court as the case may be.

[S 8(2) subs by s 7(b) of Act 16 of 1989.]

(3) Every Magistrate appointed to a judicial division shall have concurrent jurisdiction with the Magistrate appointed for every other judicial division, for the purposes of exercising jurisdiction under section 9(b)(iii) of the Code of Criminal Procedure Act, No. 15 of 1979.

[S 8(3) ins by s 7(c) of Act 16 of 1989.]

CHAPTER III

The High Court of the Republic of
Sri Lanka

9. Criminal Jurisdiction.

(1) The High Court shall ordinarily have the power and authority and is hereby required to hear, try and determine in the manner provided for by written law all prosecutions on indictment instituted therein against any person in respect of—

(a) any offence wholly or partly committed in Sri Lanka;

(b) any offence committed by any person on or over the territorial waters of Sri Lanka;

(c) any offence committed by any person in the air space of Sri Lanka;

(d) any offence committed by any person on the high seas where such offence is piracy by the law of nations;

(e) any offence wherever committed by any person on board or in relation to any ship or any aircraft of whatever category registered in Sri Lanka; or

(f) any offence wherever committed by any person, who is a citizen of Sri Lanka, in any place outside the territory of Sri Lanka or on board or in relation to any ship or aircraft of whatever category.

(2) The jurisdiction of the High Court shall subject to the provisions of any other law—

(a) in respect of any offence committed wholly or partly in Sri Lanka referred to in paragraph (a) of subsection (1), be ordinarily exercised by the High Court holden in a judicial zone within which such offence was wholly or partly committed;

(b) in respect of any offence committed in any place referred to in paragraphs (b) to (f) of subsection (1) shall be exercised by the High Court holden in the judicial zone nominated by the Chief Justice by a direction in writing under his hand:

[S 9(2)(b) am by s 6 of Act 71 of 1981.]

Provided that the Chief Justice may, if he deems fit, direct by writing under his hand that the High Court holden in any zone nominated by him shall hear and determine any offence referred to in paragraph (a) would ordinarily have been heard and determined by the High Court holden in any other judicial zone.

[S 9(2)(b) proviso am by s 6 of Act 71 of 1981.]

10. Sentence.

The Judges of the High Court may impose any sentence or other penalty prescribed by written law.

11. Trial by Jury.

(1) Subject to the provisions of subsection (2) all trials in the High Court shall be before a Judge of the High Court sitting alone without a Jury.

(2) Trial in the High Court shall be by Jury before a Judge of the High Court where at least one of the charges is for an offence referred to in the Second Schedule hereto arid the accused elects to be tried by a Jury.

(3) The election by the accused, to be tried by a Jury, shall be made at any time before the commencement of the trial.

[S 11 subs by s 8 of Act 16 of 1989.]

12. Trials at Bar.

(1) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Act or any other written law, trials at Bar shall be held by the High Court in accordance with the law for the time being in force for offences punishable under the Penal Code and other laws.

(2) The Chief Justice shall nominate a Bench of three Judges of the High Court naming one of them as the Chairman and also specifying the zone where such trial shall be held:

Provided that the Chief Justice shall not by reason of the fact that he has made an order under this subsection be disqualified or precluded from hearing any appeal to the Supreme Court in any matter which is the subject of a direction made by him under this subsection.

13. Admiralty Jurisdiction.

(1) Admiralty jurisdiction is hereby vested in the High Court and shall ordinarily be exercised by a Judge of the High Court sitting in the judicial zone of Colombo:

Provided that the Minister may by Order published in the Gazette empower a Judge of the High Court sitting in any other judicial zone also to exercise Admiralty jurisdiction and define the territorial limits and the territorial waters2 if any, adjacent thereto for the purpose of the exercise of such jurisdiction.

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