Civil Division

Representing government and other institutions in court

The officers of the Attorney General’s Department represent the state and other public institutions in court
All actions by or against the State are filed by or against the Attorney-General. Section 461 of the Civil Procedure Code requires that before any action is filed against the Attorney-General, a Minister, Secretary or a public officer a month’s notice of action should be given. The purpose of such notice is to afford the Attorney-General an opportunity of considering whether the claim is justified and if so whether relief should be granted to such person without the necessity of his having to resort to litigation.

Rendering Legal advice

As regards Civil matters, the Attorney-General advises the Government, Government Departments, Statutory Boards and Public Corporations in respect of all legal matters, as well as, appears for them in any Court or Tribunal.
The Attorney Generals’ views are sought and approval obtained with regard to legal matters in respect of major Agreements, including Foreign Loan Agreements.
International and Domestic Commercial Arbitrations Officers of the Attorney General’s Department represent state in Domestic Arbitrations, and international arbitrations which is done both in Sri Lanka and overseas.

Draft legislation

With regard to the powers and duties vested by the constitution, article 77 of the constitution stipulates that it is the duty of the Attorney- General to examine Bills and to advise the president if any of the clauses are inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution and whether they have to be passed by a special majority prescribed by the constitution. An officer acting on  behalf of the Attorney General attends parliament when bills are debated and advises the speaker on the constitutionality of any amendment that is proposed.

Role in respect of draft legislation

As a matter of practice, the legal draftsman forwards to the Attorney General a copy of every draft bill. The ministry concerned takes steps to have the bill gazetted only after the Attorney General certifies that its provisions are not inconsistent with the constitution. This practice has made it possible to ensure in the early stages of drafting legislation that proposed laws do not contravene the provisions contained in the constitution, especially those relating to fundamental rights.

Constitutional Responsibilities
Article 134 of the Constitution provides that the Attorney-General shall be noticed and has the right to be heard in all proceedings in the Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction in the following cases:
When the Court exercises its jurisdiction in examining Bills for constitutionality (Article 120, 121 and 122)
When any question relating to the interpretation of the Constitution is under consideration by the Court (Article 125)
When the Court hears any complaint of breach of fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution (Article 126)
When the Court exercises its consultative jurisdiction upon reference of a question of law or fact of public  importance referred to the Court by the President (Article 129(1))
When the Court exercises its jurisdiction in respect of breaches of Parliamentary privileges(Article 131)
Under Article 105 (3) of the Constitution, the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal have the
power to punish persons for contempt of court including contempt of a lower courts of original
jurisdiction. In exercising their jurisdiction, with regard to contempt of court matters, the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal seek the assistance of the Attorney General with regard to the drafting of the rule that is to be issued on the person so accused. An officer of the Attorney Generals’ Department appears as amicus curiae when the matter comes up for hearing.

In the conduct of disciplinary proceedings against Attorneys-at-law by the Supreme Court, the relevant material is forwarded to the Attorney-General by the Registrar of the Supreme Court seeking the assistance of the Attorney-General with regard to the drafting of the Rule. An officer of the Attorney Generals’ Department appears in Court and assists the Court when the rule comes up for hearing.

Role in respect of International agreements

Officers of the Attorney General’s Department approve different international agreements including loan agreements where state is a party. Officers of the Department also participate in multilateral and bilateral air services negotiations and scrutinizing air services agreements and advising state institutions.

Legal advice on government contracts

The Attorney General’s views are sought and approval obtained with regard to legal matters in respect of major agreements including foreign loan agreements.

Statutory functions

Considering the grant of statutory approvals, authorizations and certifications required to be issued by the Hon. Attorney General.

AD- HOC assignments

Apart from the official duties officers of the Attorney General’s Department are called upon to function in various commissions and committees including public commissions of inquiry and to assist commissions of inquiry. In addition to these officers are nominated to function as the members of the committe.