Chief Justice of Sri Lanka

The Chief Justice of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is the head of the judiciary of Sri Lanka and the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. Established in 1801, the Chief Justice is one of ten Supreme Court justices; the other nine are the Puisne Justices of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. The post was created in 1801. The Chief Justice is nominated by the Constitutional Council, and appointed by the President. The first Chief Justice was Codrington Edmund Carrington. The 47th and current Chief Justice is Jayantha Jayasuriya.

Chief Justice of Sri Lanka
අග්‍ර විනිශ්චයකාර
பிரதம நீதியரசர்
Jayantha Jayasuriya

since 29 April 2019
StyleThe Honourable Justice/His Lordship
NominatorThe President
AppointerThe President
with Constitutional Council advice and consent
Term lengthUntil the age of sixty-five years
Constituting instrumentRoyal Charter of Justice of 1801 in reference with the Constitution of Sri Lanka.
FormationMarch 1801
First holderCodrington Edmund Carrington


The office of Chief Justice traces its origins back with the founding the Royal Charter of Justice of 1801 (Now this provision are as set out in the Constitution of Sri Lanka) by the United Kingdom. With the establishment of the Supreme Court it was to consist of one principal Judge who shall be called "The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Judicature in the Island of Ceylon" and One other Judge, who was to be called "The Puisne Justice of the Supreme Court of Judicature in the Island of Ceylon". The charter required the Chief Justice and Puisne Justice to have not less than Five Years experience as Barristers, in England or Ireland to be named and appointed.

The post was first held by Codrington Edmund Carrington.[1]

Controversy of 2013-2015

The Chief Justice Mohan Peiris PC was appointed on 15 January 2013 following the controversial Impeachment of Shirani Bandaranayake. Peiris was elevated by President Mahinda Rajapaksa with the approval of the Parliamentary Council. Peiris' appointment drew some criticism. Peiris is considered to be an ally of President Rajapaksa and his appointment was seen by critics as further consolidation of power by the president and his family.[2][3] Prior to his appointment he was Chairman of Seylan Bank, Senior Legal Officer to the Cabinet and held the post of Attorney General. Peiris was officially inaugurated as Chief Justice at a ceremony in the Supreme Court on 23 January 2013. On 28 January 2015 Peiris was removed from office and his tenure demoted as de facto Chief Justice as the Government of Sri Lanka acknowledged that his appointment was void at its inception as the sitting Judge, Shirani Bandaranayake was not impeached lawfully and therefore no vacancy existed for the post.



The appointment and removal of Judges of the Supreme Court is outlined in Chapter XV Article 107. of the Sri Lankan Constitution. It states that "the Chief Justice and every other Judge of the Supreme Court shall be appointed by the President of the Republic by warrant under his hand". Judges of the Supreme Court shall hold office until the age of retirement of sixty-five years. Article 109. describes appointments of an acting Chief Justice or Judge of the Supreme Court. The President shall appoint another Judge of the Supreme Court to act in the office of Chief Justice when the incumbent is "temporarily unable to exercise, perform and discharge the powers, duties and functions of his office, by reason of illness, absence from the country or any other cause" during such period. Each person appointed to or to act as Chief Justice or a Judge of the Supreme Court shall only take office and enter upon its duties after he or she takes and subscribes or makes and subscribes before the President, the oath or the affirmation set out in the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution.[4]

Oath of office

"I ............................................................. do solemnly declare and affirm / swear that I will faithfully perform the duties and discharge the functions of the office of Chief Justice in accordance with the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and the law, and that I will be faithful to the Republic of Sri Lanka and that I will to the best of my ability uphold and defend the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka."[5]

Removal of office

Judges of the Supreme Court shall hold office during good behaviour. Removal of a judge shall only proceed with an address of the Parliament supported by a majority of the total number of Members of Parliament, (including those who are not present), and then by an order of the President. Reasons for such removal should be on the grounds of proved misbehaviour or incapacity.[4]


The Chief Justice serves as Chairman of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) which consist two Judges of the Supreme Court appointed by the President of the Republic.[4] The mission of the JSC is to accelerate the Development of the Nation by Ensuring Prompt and Equal Protection of the Law to Every Citizen through providing Infrastructure Services required for Administration of Justice, safeguarding the Independence of Judges and maintaining proper Human Resources Management in the support staffs in Court. Other duties of the Chief Justice include nominating judges, as may be necessary, to each such High Court. Every Judge shall be transferable by the Chief Justice.[6]

Since its inception in the early nineteenth century the Chief Justice was the second in line as the officer administrating the colony of Ceylon in the absence of the Governor of Ceylon and the Chief Secretary of the colony; discharging the duties of Acting Governor of Ceylon. Following Ceylon gaining self rule in 1948, Chief Justice became the first in line as the officer administrating the government in the absence of the Governor General of Ceylon serving as the Acting Governor General of Ceylon. This practice continued after the republican constitution was adopted in 1972 and Dominion of Ceylon became the Republic of Sri Lanka, with the Chief Justice serving as Acting President during the absence of the President of Sri Lanka. This capacity ceased with the second amendment to the republican constitution in 1978 when the Executive Presidency was established and order of succession defined.[7]

Precedence, salary, residence and privilegesEdit

The Chief Justice is ranked fourth in the order of precedence after the President, Prime Minister and the Speaker of the Parliament. From 1948 to 1978 the Speaker ranked third in the precedence after the Governor General/President and the Prime Minister. After the second amendment to the Republican Constitution in 1978, in which the Chief Justice was removed from the presidential line of succession; the Chief Justice gained his current position in the order of precedence.[7]

In 2016, the Chief Justice received a salary of Rs. 145,000 per month and an annual increment of Rs 7,250.[8] In addition, the Chief Justice can use the Chief Justice's House in Colombo and is entitled to an official vehicle which is usually a black Mercedes-Benz S-Class and security provided from the Judicial Security Division of the Sri Lanka Police. On retirement the Chief Justice is entitled to a pension and his wife and children are entitled to a W&OP entitlement under the Widows Widowers & Orphans Pension Act. As with other government department heads the Chief Justice his entitled to take ownership of the official vehicle he used in his tenure or the highest grade duty free permit to import a vehicle for use in retirement. As with other Judges of the Supreme Court, a former Chief Justice is bared from taking up a legal practice in the retirement.


Chief Justice like other supreme court judges wear scarlet gowns when attending court. On ceremonial occasions (such as ceremonial sittings of the Supreme Court) they would wear a scarlet gown, barrister's bands and mantle and a long wig.

List of Chief JusticesEdit

  • § Served as provisional
  • ¤ Chief Justice and President of the Council
  • ° Impeachment charges brought against
  • Elevated from Associate Justice
  • Died in office
  • Tenure demoted to de facto

Data based on:

  • A. Ranjit B. Amerasinghe|Amerasinghe, A. Ranjit B (1986), The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka: the first 185 years, Sarvodaya [9]
  • Chief Justices, 2009, Judicial Service Commission Secretariat[10]
# Chief Justice Province Took office Left office Elevated by
Chief Justice of Ceylon (1801-1972)
1 Codrington Edmund Carrington England March 1801 2 April 1806 North
2 Edmund Henry Lushington England 15 April 1807 1809 Maitland
3 Alexander Johnston¤ Scotland 6 November 1811 1819 Wilson
4 Ambrose Hardinge Giffard Ireland 8 April 1819 2 March 1827 Barnes
5 Richard Ottley 1 November 1827 1833
6 Sir Charles Marshall 18 February 1833 3 March 1836 Wilmot-Horton
7 Sir William Norris 27 April 1836 1837
8 Sir Anthony Oliphant Scotland 22 October 1838 1854 Stewart-Mackenzie
9 Sir William Ogle Carr England 17 April 1854 1856 Anderson
10 Sir William Carpenter Rowe 1857 1859 Ward
11 Sir Edward Shepherd Creasy England 27 March 1860 1875
12 William Hackett 3 February 1877 1877 Gregory
13 Sir John Budd Phear England 18 October 1877 1879 Longden
14 Richard Cayley England 1 October 1879 1882
15 Jacobus de Wet South Africa 31 May 1882 29 May 1883
16 Bruce Burnside Bahamas 21 May 1883 1893
17 John Winfield Bonser England 13 November 1893 1902 Havelock
18 Charles Layard Western Province 26 April 1902 18 June 1906 Ridgeway
19 Joseph Turner Hutchinson England 23 October 1906 1 May 1911 Blake
20 Alfred Lascelles England 1 May 1911 1914 McCallum
21 Sir Alexander Wood Renton 22 August 1914 1918 Chalmers
22 Anton Bertram England 26 July 1918 1925 Anderson
23 Sir Charles Ernest St. John Branch 3 July 1925 25 May 1926 Manning
24 Sir Stanley Fisher 11 December 1926 1930 Clifford
25 Sir Philip James Macdonell 3 October 1930 1936 Thomson
26 Sir Sidney Abrahams England 3 July 1936 December 1939 Stubbs
27 John Curtois Howard 1 December 1939 1949 Caldecott
28 Arthur Wijewardena 15 January 1949 1950 Moore
29 Sir Edward Jayetileke 1950 11 October 1951
30 Alan Rose England 11 October 1951 1956
31 Hema Henry Basnayake 1 January 1956 3 August 1964 Viscount Soulbury
32 Miliani Sansoni 3 August 1964 17 November 1966 Gopallawa
33 Hugh Fernando 20 November 1966 17 November 1973
Chief Justice of Sri Lanka (1972–present)
34 Gardiye Punchihewage Amaraseela Silva 1973 1974 Gopallawa
35 Victor Tennekoon Central Province 1 January 1974 8 September 1977
36 Neville Samarakoon° 1977 21 October 1984 Jayewardene
37 Suppiah Sharvananda Northern Province 29 October 1984 1988
38 Parinda Ranasinghe 1988 1991
39 Herbert Thambiah Northern Province 1991 Premadasa
40 G. P. S. de Silva 1991 1999
41 Sarath N. Silva 16 September 1999 7 June 2009 Kumaratunga
42 Asoka de Silva 8 June 2009 17 May 2011 Rajapaksa
43 Shirani Bandaranayake° North Western Province 18 May 2011 13 January 2013
Mohan Peiris 15 January 2013 28 January 2015
43 Shirani Bandaranayake North Western Province 28 January 2015 29 January 2015 Sirisena
44 Kanagasabapathy Sripavan Northern Province 30 January 2015 28 February 2017
45 Priyasath Dep Western Province 2 March 2017 12 October 2018
46 Nalin Perera 12 October 2018 29 April 2019
47 Jayantha Jayasuriya 29 April 2019 Present

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "History of Supreme Court". Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  2. ^ Crabtree, James (15 January 2013). "Sri Lanka appoints new chief justice". Financial Times.
  3. ^ Francis, Krishan (15 January 2013). "Sri Lankan leader replaces chief justice with ally". The Guardian/Associated Press.
  4. ^ a b c "Chapter XV - The Judiciary". Constitution of Sri Lanka. Archived from the original on 15 December 2017. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  5. ^ "Fourth Schedule". Constitution of Sri Lanka. Archived from the original on 3 February 2003. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  6. ^ "Chapter XVIIA". Constitution of Sri Lanka. Archived from the original on 3 November 2013. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  7. ^ a b The Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
  8. ^ Pay hikes for Chief Justice, puisne judges and Court of Appeal judges and president
  9. ^ Amerasinghe, A. Ranjit B (1986), The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka : the first 185 years, Sarvodaya Book Pub. Services, ISBN 978-955-599-000-4
  10. ^ "Overview". Judicial Service Commission Secretariat. Archived from the original on 19 October 2013. Retrieved 19 October 2013.

External linksEdit