The Attorney General as the Principal Law Officer of the country represents the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka in any civil action filed against the State and/or State Officers acting in their official capacity.
In terms of the Civil Procedure Code, all actions by or against the State must be instituted by or against the Attorney General (Section 456 Civil Procedure Code, Chapter 105). As such, when filing an action against the State and/or ‘its’ officials, it should be instituted against the Attorney General, and such action should be maintained against the Attorney General. Similarly, when the State intends to claim from an individual or any other institution, those cases should be filed by the Attorney General. When such cases are filed, the Plaintiff is represented by the officers of the Attorney General’s Department for and on behalf of the State. Therefore, the role of the officers of the Attorney General’s Department is unique in comparison with the overall scope of litigation in the District Courts of Sri Lanka. Further, all processes issued against the State must be served on the Attorney General (Section 457 Civil Procedure Code).
Moreover, any party who wishes to sue the State must comply with Section 461 of the Civil Procedure Code. This section prohibits the institution of any action against the State and/or its officials unless notice of intention to institute action is served on the Attorney General a month prior to the date of filing action. In the event no notice is given in terms of Section 461 and an objection is taken up in that regard, the court shall stay further proceedings of the action for a period of one month. (Section 461A of the Civil Procedure Code).
The aforementioned provisions give the Attorney General the power to mediate into the matter with the relevant Government Institution, before getting into litigation. Thus, on many occasions the Attorney General settles disputes between parties after negotiating with the relevant Government Institutions in his capacity as the principal law officer of the country.
In addition, Section 463 of the Civil Procedure Code provides for the substitution of the Attorney General as party defendant whenever he has undertaken the defence in an action against a Minister, Deputy Minister or any public officer. It is also of importance to note that Section 462 prohibits the issuance of writ against the Attorney General in any action brought against the State. Special powers are given to Attorney General to watch the interests of wards of court such as persons of unsound mind [Section 556(2), Section 572(2), and Section 575(1)] and minors (Section 589, Section 591, and Section 592(2) of the Civil Procedure Code). The Attorney General is also vested with power in respect of all public charitable Trusts and actions alleging breach of any charitable Trust can only be brought by the Attorney General or by others with his permission (Section 101 of Trust Ordinance Chapter 87).