Sri Lanka

Functions of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka

The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka was established by Article 105(1) of the Sri Lankan Constitution. It consists of the Chief Justice and ten other judges. The Chief Justice and judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President subject to the approval of the Constitutional Council.

The office of a Supreme Court judge is protected by the Articles enshrined in the Constitution. However, judges of the Supreme Court may be removed from office on the ground of misbehavior or incapacity by an order of the President after an address of Parliament supported by a majority of the Members of Parliament has been presented to the President.

Moreover, the Supreme Court is the apex court in the island and has jurisdiction to hear final appeals relating to all matters. The decisions of the Supreme Court are binding on all other courts and tribunals.

Proceedings in the Supreme Court are of an adversarial nature but applications relating to Fundamental Rights may take an inquisitorial approach. Further, the Supreme Court has the power to grant just and equitable relief in the case of infringement of Fundamental Rights.

While there is no explicit provision for public interest litigation in the Constitution, the Supreme Court has expanded its Fundamental Rights jurisdiction to entertain public interest litigation. Further, the Right to Life has been recognised as a Fundamental Right even though it has not been expressly stated in the Constitution.

Moreover, the Supreme Court has exclusive constitutional jurisdiction. Additionally, the Supreme Court plays a major role in the legislative process. In terms of Article 121(1) of the Constitution any citizen by petition may invoke the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to challenge a Bill within seven days of a Bill being placed on the Order Paper in Parliament.

Upon determination of the Bill and if it is found to be inconsistent with the Constitution, Article 123(2) states that the Supreme Court shall specify whether a Bill needs to be passed by a special majority in Parliament, or whether it requires a special majority and approval by the People at Referendum.

Further, the President may at any time invoke the consultative jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to address a question of law or fact that is of public importance which has arisen or is likely to arise.

The Supreme Court also has jurisdiction over legal proceedings relating to elections or the validity of a referendum and any appeal from an election petition case. Moreover, the court has the power to impose punishments for the breach of parliamentary privileges.

The Supreme Court is empowered to make rules regulating the procedure of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. Further, the Supreme Court has power to enroll attorneys and to take disciplinary action against them.