legal aid commission
Compiled by Kalani A. Medagoda, A.A.L.
Press Council law reforms
Responsible media freedom is essential for democratic good
governance. Eventhough, the print media is gradually shrinking globally
in the wake of the explosion of the Internet and electronic
communications, the newspapers would continue to play a vital role in
democratic governance specially in the developing countries. The need to
protect and foster responsible media freedom has to be assessed in that
The avowed objective of all Press Councils in the world, whether self
regulatory or legislation based should be to protect the freedom of the
press by developing high media ethics and assuring the dignity of the
newspaper professionals by ensuring their professional and economic
Self regulatory Press Complaints Commissions or the Councils
established by law should function without fear or bias either to the
newspaper proprietors, private or state owned which finance the
Journalists are not business men hence they need an assured income to
sustain their professional independence. Income support should not be
manipulated to taint their professional freedom.
The Sri Lanka Press Council Law No.5 of 1973 was enacted as the title
indicates 36 years ago amidst high controversy.
In 2003 with the expiry of the period of office of the Press Council
Members, no new members were appointed by then President Chandrika
Kumaratunga. Neither did the then Government take steps to repeal the
law merely allowing the Law to lie in abeyance. The Law has now been
re-activated with the appointment of a new set of Council members by the
The Press Council is a Quasi-Judicial body and the law expects it to
function independently to safeguard press freedom but also to prevent
abuse by establishing a public inquiry mechanism when the print media
publishes anything distorted, untrue or improper.
Newspaper publishers and journalists who comply with high standards
of journalistic ethics rarely face public complaints. The victims of
media injury need a forum to seek justice and rectification. Distorted,
untrue and improper publications can do irreparable harm to individuals
The Press Council Law attempts to guarantee due process by conducting
public inquiry where legal representation is permitted. The Councillors
once appointed like members of the Superior Judiciary cannot be removed
until the expiry of the term or resignation. In any event, the Council
had been vested with no powers of punitive punishment. The Council after
inquiry into a public complaint, if established, could only order a
correction, censor, or publication of an apology to the injured person
or institution. Most responsible newspapers voluntarily rectify errors
when brought to editorial attention.
The Press Council law provision relating to criminal defamation was
repealed. Rather draconian provisions relating to Cabinet decisions and
matters relating to the official Secret Act which have no relation to
the Quasi-judicial functions of the Council should be deleted from the
Press Council Law.
The urgent attention of the new Council should be directed to enhance
the dignity of journalistic profession.
Public Legal Awareness Unit
LAC calls on Chief Justice
Legal Aid Commission Chairman S.S. Wijeratne and Commissioners
Manohara de Silva, PC, Rohan Sahabandu, Upali Gooneratne, Swarna Perera,
Dr.W.D. Rodrigo, Uditha Egalahewa and Secretary to the Commission
Lilanthi de Silva called on the new Chief Justice Asoka de Silva last
week. The Chief Justice was apprised abut the programs of the LAC to
establish a comprehensive access to justice scheme under the Legal Aid
Law No.27 of 1978.
Chief Justice J.A.N. de Silva meeting with the Legal Aid
Commission. From left: LAC Chairman S.S. Wijeratne, LAC
Secretary Lilanthi de Silva, Commissioners Uditha Egalahewa,
Manohara de Silva, PC, Rohan Sahabandu and Upali Gooneratne
Picture by W.H. Chandradasa
Among the matters brought to the attention of the Chief Justice is
the revival of Legal Aid Advisory Council chaired by the Chief Justice
which is entrusted with the function of advising the LAC from time to
time as provided in Section 14 of the Legal Aid Law.
Administrator of LAC, Dr. W.D. Rodrigo as Secretary of the Advisory
Council will take steps to summon a meeting in the near future.
As Supreme Court Rules provide for letters and petitions received by
the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court on violations of fundamental
rights to be referred inter alia to the LAC to take follow up action,
the Registrar of the Supreme Court was requested to distribute FR
violation complaints between the LAC and the BASL.
The Commission also highlighted the need for recognition of the
public service rendered by the full time legal aid lawyers on very
modest emoluments and it was generally agreed that the core
responsibility for legal aid should be taken by the state. The recent
trend for increased support of the LAC by the Government was appreciated
and should be reinforced in the future.
Questions and Answers
Question: Please let me know the powers and the functions of
the Criminal Records Division in the Police Department.
Answer: The Division consists of three main sections.
They are the Finger Print Bureau, the Criminal Records Office and the
Bureau. Finger Print Bureau The most cost effective definite and
legal way for the identification of persons is by the use of finger
prints. Crimes of the entire island stored through finger print records.
The ridge characteristics on the skin on finger, palm and foot can be
compared to identify two prints. These characteristics on the skin make
contact easy and are unique to humans.
Assisting the public by identifying through finger prints:
* Investigations at the scene of a crime.
* To identify persons in the case of forged documents
* To submit expert evidence to courts in order to punish criminals.
* To issue clearance certificates.
Question: Please let me know the reasons of amendment of
contribution to member accounts. Your early reply would be appreciated.
Answer: Reasons requiring amendment of contributions:
1. Employer making contributions by changing his employment number.
2. District code letter incorrectly stated with the employer number.
3. Using some other employment number instead of the assigned
4. Allocating the same member number to several other members from
time to tome.
5. Use of serial number instead of member number.
6. Change of numbers in member numbers.
7. Recording the member number illegibly.
8. Crediting contributions to the same old number after amalgamation
9. Crediting funds to the same number after refund of benefits.
10. Assigning a number belonging to one member to another.
11. On payment of refund of benefits assign the same number to
another member or credit funds to the same member even after refund.
Question: I have given a short name to my child in her birth
certificate. In my child’s birth certificate, my name appears as
‘Jayasighe Arachchige Sudath Priyankara Perera.’ Child’s name as ‘Mihili
I want my child to be called ‘Mihili Jayasinghe Arachchi’ as her full
name. I do not want to see her full name written as ‘Jayasinghe
Arachchige Mihili Jayasinghe Arachchi Perera.’
Whereas, in my birth certificate, my name appears as ‘Sudath
Priyankara’. However, from school admission onwards, my full name has
been written as ‘Jayasinghe Arachchige Sudath Priyankara Perera’
automatically because my father’s name has been written as, ‘Jayasinghe
Arachchige Kirinelis Perera’ in my birth certificate.
Therefore, will it create any unnecessary dispute if my child uses
here full name as ‘Mihili Jayasinghe Arachchi’ in her career or in
property matters in the future?
Your professional legal advice is highly appreciated in this regard.
Answer: Under the Birth and Death Registration Ordinance, the
father’s surname automatically comes to your child’s Birth Certificate.
Your surname appears as ‘Jayasinghe Arachchige and Perera. That means
your child’s full name should be ‘Jayasinghe Arachchige Mihili
Jayasinghe Arachchi Perera.’ She cannot change her father’s detail as
she wishes. Therefore your child’s full name should be Jayasinghe
Arachchige Mihili Jayasinghe Arachchi Perera. She cannot use ‘Mihili
Jayasinghe Arachchi’ that is her name not her full name.
Under the Birth and Death Registration Ordinance if your child is
under 21 years old the parents can change the child’s full name.
If the child is above 21 years old he or she can change his or her
name. In that event surname can be changed. But it should be mentioned
in her Birth Certificate in cage 13. If you need further advice you can
call our at our Legal Aid Commission Head Office.
Question: I married a person who was a government servant at
the time of marriage. We had a disabled child. After some time he
started neglecting both of us.
I filed a case in the Magistrate’s Court and got maintenance from him
for both of us. I neither divorced him nor did he get involved with
another woman .Last month he died in a road accident.
I want to know whether am I entitled to his pension. I know his W&OP
number. What shall I do? Please advise me?
Answer: If you are the first legal wife of your husband, you
can get his pension. You have to inform to the Pension Department that
you are his legal wife and that you have disabled child.
They will send you the necessary information to you. Please note that
if you have a disabled child he/she can get his/her fathers pension
through life time after the spouse’s death. The address is given below:
Department of Pension,
Protection on rights of elders
Question: We know there are so many elders who are being
neglected by their children. I want to know whether there are any
prevailing laws in Sri Lanka to care for elders.
Answer: The Elders Act No. 09 of 2000 - section 15
(1) states that” children shall not neglect their parents willfully
and it shall be the duty and the responsibility of children to provide
care for, and to took in to the needs of their parents.
(2) The state shall provide appropriate residential facilities, to
destitute elders who are without children or are abandoned by their
(3) No elder shall, on account of his age, be subject to any
liability, restriction or condition with regard to access to or use of,
any be subject to any liability restriction or condition with regard to
access to or use of, any building or place or institution which any
other person has access to or is entitled to use, whether on payment of
any fee or not”.
Authentication of documents
Question: My brother has decided to go abroad . He needs to
get the authentication of his Birth and Educational Certificates to be
forwarded to foreign countries. How can we get this done? Please help
Answer: If you want authentication of your documents, you have
to handed over those documents to the Consular Division of the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs, Republic Building, Colombo 01, Sri Lanka.
Documents are accepted for attestation from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the
attested documents are returned to the owners from 10.30 a.m. time to
time calling the token numbers through the Public Addressing System. The
original certificate should be forwarded for attestation. Photostat
copies are not attested.
The Consular Division are attested Only the documents that are
written in Sinhala, Tamil, English and Arabic.
Only the translations done by sworn translators are attested and the
sworn translator should clearly mention on his/her letterhead or the
seal/stamp, the languages in which he is authorized to do the
When a Sinhala or Tamil or English document is translated into
Arabic, the particulars of the original document should be mentioned in
English in the document that has been translated into Arabic.
* When the authenticity of a document has to be confirmed before
attestation and the specimen signature required for the attestation of a
document is not available, the document is forwarded to the relevant
authority for verification for which a period of about 3 weeks is
Letters addressed to the Ambassadors and diplomatic officers of
foreign countries, various institutions in foreign countries etc. are
The documents should be in the form ‘To whom it may concern’. Also
the letters/documents regarding the obtaining of visas for foreign
countries are not attested.
The Consular Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are not
attested by deeds/titles, bank statements, appointment letters,
Registration of Persons Department
Question: Please let me know if there are any branch offices
of the Registration of Persons Department in Sri Lanka?
Answer: The Head Office of the Registration of Persons
Department is situated at No.C45, Keppetipola Mawatha, Colombo 05. Tel
011-2583199, 011- 2508022. Fax 011-2593634. E-mail email@example.com Web
Office of Registration of Persons,
Record Room, No. 239, High level Road, Nugegoda. Tel: 011-2856141
Office of Registration of persons District Secretariat, Jaffna. Tel:
Office of Registration of Persons, District Secretariat, Kandy. Tel:
How to get copy of Birth Certificate
Question: I was born in Italy 25 years ago . At that time my
mother had registered my birth at the Italian Embassy. Now I have lost
my original birth certificate. Please let me know how to get my Birth
Answer: If your mother has already registered your birth at
the Italian Embassy, you can apply for a certified copy of the birth
certificate from the Central Record Room at Maligawaththa, Colombo 10.
You can obtain the Application Form B63 from any of the Divisional
Secretary’s Office. Fill the said Application Form and hand over the
same with the relevant stamps and self addressed envelope. Thereafter
you can get the certified copy of your Birth Certificates.
Domestic Violence Act
Question: I am always harassed by my husband. I am subjected
to hospitalization due to his abnormal behavior. I discussed this matter
with my relations and they adviced me to file a domestic violence case.
I want to know whether the court can issue an order to prevent his bad
actions. Please advice me?
Answer: Under the Domestic Violence Act No 34 of 2005 the
court can ensure the safety of the aggrieved person . Under this Act,
the court can issue protection order preventing the aggrieved person
from using or having access to shared resources. The Domestic Violence
Act No 34 of 2005 section 8 says that “in determining whether a
protection Order should be issued or not, the court shall take in to
consideration the need to prevent the commission of any act of Domestic
Violence and the need to ensure the safety of the aggrieved person”.
Closure of company
Question: I have been a Director of a company which had to be
closed down sometime back due to continued losses.
On an application made to the Department of Labour by the company or
termination of employment of workers, the Department after due inquiries
ordered that compensation be paid to workers and stipulated a date for
In the meantime the Directors of the defunct company sold their
shares to another party who has agreed to re-open the factory and
provide employment to all who were there before closure and continue the
business. A. MOU was drawn.
My question is whether the former Directors are still liable to pay
compensation in view of the position that there has been no termination
of employment because the present Directors have agreed to employ the
workers and the company continues as a going concern.
On what basis are wages to be computed in respect of the interim
period during which the factory was kept closed?
Answer: According to your question, the Company had made an
application to the Commissioner of Labour for the termination of
employment of all employees.
An inquiry has been held by the Commissioner. After hearing evidence
the Commissioner has granted permission to terminate the services of the
employees and awarded compensation.
Under normal circumstances when computing compensation, the
Commissioner takes into consideration the period where wages were not
paid and also gratuity is computed separately.
Your question is not clear. In order to advise you in the matter,
please send us a copy of your application to the Commissioner General of
Labour and the order made in that connection.
Applications are invited from Attorneys-at-Law with six years
practice in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal and with
experience in human rights based legal aid work.
Position: Legal Officer, Human Rights Bureau.
Salary: Negotiable depending on qualifications and experience in
handling fundamental rights cases.
Closing Date: August 15, 2009
Legal Aid Commission
129, Hulftsdorp Street,
ICLP mediation program
The Institute for the Development of Commercial Law and Practice will
conduct its mediation program on August 8 from 9 am to 4.30pm at the
ICLP Arbitration Centre.
Any professional who has an interest in
alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.
Secretary General of ICLP Arbitration
Centre S.S Wijeratne.
Mrs. Kamalini De Silva, Additional Secretary,
Ministry of Justice.
Commercial Mediation in Commercial Contracts
Ms Nadija Tambiah, Head of Secretarial &
Legal John Keells Holdings PLC
Mediation under Public Utilities Act
Public Utilities Commission
Yasantha Rathuwithana, Public Utilities Commission Mediation in
Mediator Trainer-Ministry of Justice
Contact Ishara, ICLP Arbitration Centre, 61, Carmel Road, Colombo 3,
Tel/Fax: 2346163/4, 0775375998 email: firstname.lastname@example.org for further
Voet Inn dinner
The 60th Anniversary Diamond Jubilee dinner of the Voet Inn
Association at the Galadari Hotel on August 29 at 7 p.m. All Voet Inners
please contact the following Attorney’s-At-Law Mahinda Ekanayake -
0776066925, Mahinda Lokuge - 0773266474, S. Suntheralingam - 0777
374423, Chamath Jayasekara - 0773 113876 Uthpala Adhikari - 0718 032712
The Annual General Meeting of the Voet Inn Association will also be
held at the same venue at 6.30 p.m.
Secretary - Voet Inn Association
Study Human Rights through online diploma
The Centre for the Study of Human Rights of the University of Colombo
is making it possible for students to broaden their knowledge on Human
Rights through an internet course.
The course will be conducted in English. It will commence soon and is
still open for applications from prospective students.
This course is suitable for school leavers who are interested in the
Human Rights field, for individuals who are engaged in areas that
require a solid theoretical knowledge in Human Rights and to anyone who
is interested in gaining knowledge on Human Rights.
The basic entry qualifications are set at credit pass for O’level
English, simple passes for the three A’level subjects and computer
For more information please contact Prof. Ravindra Fernando, Director
or Ms. Subhashinie Dayananda of Centre for the Study of Human Rights,
University of Colombo, Colombo 03. (Tel: 2500879/112503017).
The answers to questions are the legal views of individual lawyers
and the Legal Aid Commission only compiles them for the Daily News Legal
Yours questions should be addressed to -
Daily News Legal Aid Page
Chairman Legal Aid Commission
No. 129, Hulftsdorp Street,