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Is Sri Lanka becoming a lawless country?

22 October 2016 12:00 am - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Judiciary faces obstacles due to unreasonable delays in publishing legislative enactments


 Legislative Enactments  of Sri Lanka
In order to make this letter short, I append below the first two paragraphs extracted from the Preface in Volume I of “Legislative Enactments of Ceylon”, in force on 30th June 1956, prepared under the authority of the “Revised Edition of the Legislative Enactments of Ceylon Act No. 2 of 1956”. Vide Section 2 therein, The Hon. Hema Henry Basanayake, Chief Justice was appointed as the Commissioner for the purpose of preparing a new revised edition of the Legislative Enactments of Ceylon in force up to 31stDecember 1954, or such later date * as the Governor General may fix by proclamation published in the Gazette. {* By Gazette No. 11013 of 30th. November 1956, the later date was fixed as 30th June 1956.}  


 The scheme of grouping our legislative enactments under Titles and Chapters was first introduced into our statute law revision in 1938. It was then intended to keep the edition up to date by annual supplements and bring out a revised edition every ten years. But owing to the Second World War the publication of annual supplements was suspended after 1941 under the Annual Supplements (Suspension of Publication) Ordinance, No. 26 of 1941, and never resumed thereafter.

 This revised edition has been considerably delayed and is issued twenty-one years after the last. This long delay is due entirely to reasons beyond my control. The preparation of this edition was started as far back as October, 1948, with the intention of publishing in 1950 the enactments in force on 31st December, 1949. Later it was decided to extend the date to 30th June, 1950, so as to include enactments such as the Land Acquisition Act, the Air Navigation Act, and the Electricity Act, all of which were enacted in the first half of 1950. 

At the end of the Preface, Hon. H.H.Basanayake, Chief Justice has thanked Mr. H. Deheragoda, Crown Counsel and Mr. L.H.R.Peiris, Advocate for the assistance rendered by them in the preparation of the edition.  

Thereafter, ‘Supplement to Legislative Enactments – Volumes I & II – 1958’ was prepared on the authority of the ‘Revised Edition of the Legislative Enactments (Supplements) Act, No. 26 of 1961.’ Section 3 of this Act, stipulates,  

 As soon as possible after the commencement every year following the year in which the first supplement to the revised edition comes into force, the Legal Draftsman shall prepare a supplement hereinafter referred to as an “annual supplement” to that edition. 

I am sorry to say that, I was not able to lay my hands on any such “annual supplement”. Failure to comply with the above referred thoughtful and meaningful stipulation, may have created an undue backlog of work for the Commissioner for the Revision of Legislative Enactments and his staff.  
The next attempt (which incidentally, was the first after Sinhala was declared the official language of Sri Lanka) to consolidate all legislative enactments was in 1980. This attempt was partly successful as stated in the Preface in Volume I of the legislative enactments prepared by E.R.K.D.M. Hector Deheragoda, former Judge of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, assisted by,Mr.U.D.J. Jinadasa, Attorney -at-Law & Assistant Secretary to the Ministry of Justice, Mr. G.Piyadasa, Attorney-at-Law & Asst. Legal Draftsman, Miss. P.I.Senaratne, Attorney-at-Law & Asst. Legal Draftsman and Miss. F.R.C. Arokiasamy, Attorney-at-Law & Asst. Legal Draftsman.  


This Edition of the Legislative Enactments is termed “Unofficial”. An explanation is due as to why it is so. The original scheme was to bring out the Revised Edition in Sinhala, Tamil and English simultaneously as an official publication. Later, owing to certain legal and technical obstacles and practical difficulties in the expeditious preparation of the Sinhala and Tamil Editions, this scheme was temporarily abandoned, and it was decided to bring out an unofficial English Edition for the guidance of judicial officers and legal practitioners pending the authorization of such Edition in all three languages by the enactment of an Act of Parliament in due course. Each Volume of the unofficial publication will be released as and when it is ready.

The scheme followed in the preparation of this Revised Edition is similar to that of 1956 Edition – namely, enactments grouped under Titles and Chapters, kindred enactments being grouped together under each Title.

This revision covers the period 1st July, 1956 to 31st December, 1980. All enactments which have been repealed expressly or by necessary implication or which have been expired or have become spent, or have had their effect have been omitted. Certain enactments which were in force on 31st December, 1980, and not reproduced in the Revised Edition ( for the reason that such enactments were to be repealed or likely to lapse in the near future) have been listed in the “List of Enactments omitted from the Revised Edition” contained at the end of each Volume.

Only Volumes I to V of the total 20 Volumes of the unofficial edition of 1980 had been translated into Sinhala. None toTamil. At the end of each of the 20 Volumes of the ‘1980 Revised Edition (unofficial)’ publication, an ‘Alphabetical Index to the revised edition’ indicating the Volume No. and the Chapter is given as a ready reckoner  

.  An ‘unofficial’ Cumulative Supplement to the Revised Edition of the Legislative Enactments of 1980 had been published in 2 Volumes covering the period, 1stJanuary 1981 to 31st.December 1984, which incidentally was the last I was able to lay my hands on.  

Blackhall Publishers in Ireland has published in English, eight volumes titled, “Blackhall’s Laws of Sri Lanka”, in force as at 31st July, 2014. Since, there is no indication of the author responsible for compiling the contents in any of these Volumes, and the publisher’s statement that they do not accept any liability from errors, omissions, etc., as a result of the information contained therein, a doubt arises whether this publication could be accepted as authentic.  

Spiritual-wise, we have the ‘Tripitaka’ as the sacred book for Buddhist, the ‘Holy Bible’ for the Christians, the ‘Koran’ for the Islamic faith and the ‘Bhagawatha-githa’ for the Hindus. Material-wise, it should be legislation, because legislation is enacted by the legislature of a country to protect its value system. However, it is unfortunate that we do not have such an updated officially recognized Law Book.   

 As a nation, we should be ashamed of ourselves since we are still struggling with ‘Cumulative Supplements’ to the Revised Unofficial Edition of 1980. Failure to periodically consolidate and publish legislative enactments in a country (as expected by Act No. 2 of 1956) while being a major obstacle to the Judiciary, personnel practicsing, teaching and studying law, researchers and to the authorities expected to enforce legal provisions, could create a notion around the world, that Sri Lanka has become a lawless country. Investors from the western world will be particular to know the laws of a country, especially because of the “Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007” in the UK. I am aware of an organization having links with the UK, paying almost double the amount of the minimum compensation stipulated in Sri Lanka’s Workmen’s Compensation Ordinance on account of an accident in 2009, that resulted in three deaths.   

The Ministry of Labour, on the initiative taken by the then Secretary, Mr. Mahinda Madihahewa, consolidated the legislative enactments under its purview and published its first consolidation in 2000 (updated up to 31st December, 1999) and the second in 2010 (updated up to 31st December, 2009), titled “Labour Code of Sri Lanka”.  

In view of the above stated, I request Hon. Dr. Wijedasa Rajapakshe, Minister of Justice, in good faith, to initiate immediate action to consolidate the existing Legislative Enactments in Sri Lanka. May I propose the following course of action.  

 1. Instead of publishing periodic Cumulative Supplements to the Revised Edition 1980, recommend to consider it as the base and consolidate it with the enactments so far enacted and to be enacted up to 31stDecember 2016. The volume of work to be done in the Sinhala and Tamil will be very much more than in English.   

2. The Sinhala stream should start translating the Revised Edition 1980 (from Volume VI onwards) while consolidating the entire 1980 Revised Edition up to 31st December 2016.   
 3. The Tamil stream should start translating and consolidating from Volume I onwards up to 31st December 2016.   

 4. The respective Ministries, Authorities, Commissions and other bodies responsible for enforcing legal provisions could be requested to assist the Legal Draftsman by preparing the respective basic drafts, in all three languages embodying the Amendments, if any, to the principal Ordinance/Act//Law, in order to reduce the work load for the Legal Draftsman.   

Translations will be required only up to the day Bills were required to be tabled in Parliament in all three languages.   

The final outcome will be a Revised Edition 2016 and the next, hopefully should be 2026.  
 After each such consolidation, it will be necessary for the Legal Draftsman to prepare an “Annual Supplement”, similar to the requirement as stipulated by Section 3 of Act No. 26 of 1961. Compiling “Annual Supplements” on the computer will reduce the spadework necessary for the next consolidation.  

Since what I have enumerated above is an important and essential aspect of consolidating legislative enactments in Sri Lanka into a compact form, I would greatly appreciate if you could express your views through a Press Release.  
Thank you.  

V.M.Karunaratne, Former Deputy Commissioner of Labour and Chief Factory Inspecting Engineer.  

  Comments - 1

  • pali Sunday, 23 October 2016 02:59 PM

    I think it is already happened

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