About the Court

High Courts

 

Trials at a High Court are conducted by the State (Sri Lanka), through the Attorney-General’s Department. The Attorney-General’s Department prosecutes on behalf of the State.

Murder trials and various offenses against the State are tried at the High Court; other criminal offenses are tried at a Magistrate’s Court.

 

While some 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 Schedule of the Judicature Act No.2 of 1978. Also, the Attorney-General has the authority to determine whether a case that does not fall into a category provided in the Second Schedule of the Judicature Act No.2 of 1978 should nonetheless have a jury.

 

The Penal Code stipulates the types of cases argued in a High Court: “The Penal Code defines most of the criminal offenses known to our law. And the Code of Criminal Procedure Act. No: 15 of 1979 sets out which of these offenses [can be tried] by each court [High Court and Magistrate’s Court].

The High Court is composed of not less than ten and not more than forty judges. This Court sits in 16 provinces in the country (16 High Courts). 

 

The High Court is composed of not less than ten and not more than forty judges. This Court sits in 16 provinces in the country (16 High Courts).

The High Court of each province exercises:

 

  • Original jurisdiction over prosecution of offenses committed within a particular province.
  • Admiralty jurisdiction, which is usually exercised in Colombo, the capital city.
  • Commercial jurisdiction, which is vested by the High Court of the Provinces (SpecialProvisions) Act, No. 10 of 1996.
  • Jurisdiction to hear cases involving attempts to influence the outcome of a decision made, or an order issued, by the Judicial Service Commission. This jurisdiction is vested by Article 111 L (2) of the Constitution.
  • Applications for the return of, or access to, a child, under the Hague Convention, is handled by the High Court of the Western Province (Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction Act, No:10 of 2001).
  • Appellate jurisdiction over convictions, sentences, and orders imposed by the Magistrate’s Courts and Primary Courts within the province.
  • Writ jurisdiction in respect to powers exercised under any law or statutes enacted by the Provincial Council of that particular province, with regard to an issue delineated in the Provincial Council List.
  • Appeals of decisions reached by Labor Tribunals, Agrarian Tribunals, and Small Claims Courts.

 

The Provincial High Court sits in the following cities: Colombo, Kalutara, Galle, Matara, Batticaloa, Jaffna, Chilaw, Negombo, Gampaha, Kegalle, Kurunegala, Kandy, Avissawella, Ratnapura, Badulla, and Anuradhapura.

Judges of the High Court are appointed by the President of the Republic on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission, and in consultation with the Attorney-General. The President of the Republic, acting on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission, exercises authority in disciplinary matters concerning the High Court judges. The President may terminate the service of a High Court judge on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission.

 

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC)was established by the enactment of Article 111D of the Constitution, incorporated by the 17th Amendment, which became effective on October 3, 2001. The JSC is composed of the Chief Justice (as Chairman) and two other judges of the Supreme Court appointed by the President of the Republic.