The role of the Attorney General in Constitutional matters is set out primarily in Articles 77, 120, 121, 122, 125, 126, 129, 131, and 134 of the Constitution. The said Articles vest the Attorney General with most critical constitutional duties. Intrinsically these Articles mandates the Attorney General to perform the following key duties:
a.) Uphold the constitution by advising the Government on the constitutionality of proposed legislation,
*As per Article 77 of the Constitution 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.
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 in-consistent 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.
b.) Safeguard and defend the true meaning of the Constitution,
*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 instances:
i) When the Court exercises its jurisdiction in examining Bills for constitutionality (Article 120, 121 and 122)
ii) When any question relating to the interpretation of the Constitution is under consideration by the Court (Article 125)
iii)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))
iv)When the Court exercises its jurisdiction in respect of breaches of Parliamentary privileges (Article 131)
c.) Represent the Government in fundamental rights complaints filled against the executive or administrative action, including the official acts or omissions of the President in all proceedings before the Supreme Court,
*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 When the Court hears any complaint of breach of fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution (Article 126). [ It is pertinent to note that Article 35 of the Constitution as amended by the 19th Amendment to the Constitution provides that any person may make an application under Article 126 against the Attorney-General, in respect of anything done or omitted to be done by the President, in his official capacity].
In addition to the aforesaid duties and powers casted on the office of Attorney General under specific Articles in the Constitution, the Attorney Generals assistance, as a friend of Court ( amaicus curiae), is often required in practice by the Superior Courts in the following two instances.
i) * In terms of 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 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 a friend of court / an impartial adviser to Court, (amicus curiae) when the matter comes up for hearing.
ii) 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.
The Attorney General of Sri Lanka is committed to exercise the powers vested in him, in the most reasonable and just manner, in fulfilling all duties of his office with the prime intent of effectively and most efficaciously taking forward the mission of his Department, and striving to enforce laws of Sri Lanka on the premises of fairness and independence, to ensure justice, safety and liberty for the people of Sri Lanka, in a bid to encourage social and economic prosperity, equal opportunity and tolerance.