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qrcode.29977451In dealing with the Law in this series, I have added much to the text of the book that was published some years back by Cambridge University Press in India. This is because the decline in our legal system in the last couple of decades has been appalling. So in addition to my analysis of what law is about, I thought it essential to include some recommendations on establishing a system that will help restore the confidence of the people in the justice system.

For this purpose I have drawn much on the suggestions of Nagananda Kodituwakku, whose deep commitment to a professional and honest public service has been heightened by his experience as a lawyer in England. His paper shows that, whereas we claim that our system is based on the forms developed by the British, we have failed to move with the times as Britain has done.

I realized from what he wrote that it will not be enough to restore the independence of the judiciary. That is essential, and we must ensure that appointments are made in accordance with clear criteria and transparently, through a system that ensures consultation and professional input that weighs more than politican convenience.

But in addition we must ensure that the court system is responsive to public needs. Costs must be controlled so that justice is not beyond the reach of the majority. And justice should not be delayed, since that is not justice. Read the rest of this entry »

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qrcode.29948785Although cases have to be brought to court when the law is breached, ideally a society should maintain law and order without having recourse to the courts. Crucial in this respect are the forces of internal security. Chief among these are the police, whose primary duty is vigilance to ensure that criminal activities are prevented or limited. With increasing criminal activity, the police find it difficult to fulfill this function, and are instead involved more in crime detection. In such cases, it also falls to the police to prepare evidence and present it in the courts, under the guidance of government lawyers wherever necessary.

Meanwhile, some of the functions carried out by the police at a stage when society was less complex have now been handed over to private security organisations. These hardly existed half a century ago, but now many government officers, private firms and even private houses, have security guards on a scale which was not thought of as necessary some decades ago. We can see then that internal security, which was considered primarily a function of government, is now perceived as a joint responsibility.

It should be noted that the preventive role of the police has increased in other respects. For instance, some years ago traffic control was not a major responsibility of the police. Now, with increased movement of people and greater use of vehicles, ensuring adherence to traffic regulations, and interpreting them in difficult situations, has become a primary responsibility of the police. Though this may seem a far cry from the security-related functions of the police, maintaining order in this area is vital for the smooth functioning of society.

There are many other government agencies that also contribute to security. Customs and excise officials have always been an integral component of financial and legal security, and their role has expanded with the expansion of criminal activity in areas such as narcotics and terrorism. But there are also agents of other ministries and government departments, such as the Consumer Protection Authority or the Public Health Department, who have a vital role to play in maintaining security. With the development of society and the need for security in new areas, the work of organisations such as environmental protection agencies will increase in importance. It will be necessary for governments to strengthen their preventive role.

Finally, all over the world in the last few decades, greater attention is being paid to what is known as Community Policing. This is connected with the idea I began with in this section, that the police, as the guarantors of law and order in a community, should also play a part in forstalling problems. This can be done through greater involvement in society. Working together with leading members of the community, and also the vulnerable, will help to establish a set of norms, which will not be easy for individuals to violate.

Judicial Independence

Of the institutions and individuals noted above, some clearly belong to the government in the narrow sense of the term, that is, the executive. For instance, in addition to the police, the attorney general, the legal draughtsman and their departments fulfill executive functions, and therefore, they usually come under the authority of the executive head of government or his or her representative. Read the rest of this entry »

Rajiva Wijesinha

September 2019
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