Justice Minister Ali Sabry has appointed a special committee comprising judges and lawyers to look into the setting up of a small claims court and amending the Civil Procedure Code Amendment which brought in ‘pre-trial’ steps in 2017.
The committee will comprise Justice Dr. Ruwan Fernando – Judge of the Court of Appeal (Chairman), Nishan Premathiratne – Attorney-at-Law (Convenor), a District Court Judge, nominated by the Judicial Service Commission, Mayadunne Corea – Senior Deputy Solicitor General, Attorney General’s Department, Kaushalya Nawarathna – Attorney-at-Law, Chandima Muthukumarana – Attorney-at-Law, Rasika Dissanayake – Attorney-at-Law, Lasitha Kanuwanaarachchi – Attorney-at-Law, Ruwantha Cooray – Attorney-at-Law and Ruwanadini Kuruppu – Assistant Secretary (Legal), Ministry of Justice.
The ‘pre-trial’ steps which had been implemented in 2017 as a step in the direction of reducing the delays surrounding civil litigation though which was brought in to expedite the entire process of a civil trial has also been criticised by certain quarters on the basis that such Amendment had brought in the required efficiency and efficacy and moreover causing further delays in civil litigation. The committee is to look into this Amendment and make immediate suggestions to the Minister of Justice in order to bring in further Amendments to the Civil Procedure Code.
In addition, the committee is also mandated to consider setting up a separate court in all provinces as a small claims court where claims or disputes below a certain sum of rupees to be exclusively looked into and adjudicated upon.
Small claims courts have been set up in jurisdictions such as England, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc. where the entire adjudication process is to conclude within a very short and strict timeline relying on the strength of documents alone, without actually proceeding into a fully blown trial.
The effect of setting up a small claims court would in turn result in reducing the work load of the District Courts in the Island which have the jurisdiction to hear and determine all forms of land, divorce, custody, delictual rights, money recovery actions, etc. on any quantum. Thus, in effect reducing the workload and expediting the process of litigation.