7 July, 2022


Doubling The Number Of High Courts Will Drastically Reduce Crimes

By Basil Fernando

Basil Fernando

Basil Fernando

This article is an attempt to demonstrate that the occurrence of serious crimes in Sri Lanka, could be drastically reduced by doubling the number of High Courts since only the High Courts have the jurisdiction to conduct trials regarding serious crimes. However, prolonged delays in adjudication has undermined the effectiveness of these courts acting towards discouraging criminals from committing crimes, and fearing the capacity of the State to enforce effective punishments.

Increasing the number of High Courts, is an essential measure for reducing serious crimes. It is suggested that the number of such courts should be doubled at the very least. This together with hearing of trials on day to day basis could make a dramatic change to end delays of adjudication.

This measure aimsto address the most difficult issue in the criminal justice field in Sri Lanka: the delay in adjudication. It is simply impossible to create a significant change in this situation without increasing the number of High Courts where the trials for serious crimes take place.

As there are 28 High Courts existing at present, increasing this number will not create a great burden on the government’s finances.

By increasing of High Courts it is implied that the number of High Court judges and the Court staff and the necessary material and infrastructure resources as well as the premises need to be provided. And all this will not create an unbearable burden on the Government’s finances.

However, the impact of implementing this proposal will be immense.

On one hand, it will significantly resolve the problem of delays in the adjudication of criminal trials. Thus, while the change will immediately take place in the High Courts, it will set a tempo for change throughout the court system, as well as in the other institutions such as the Attorney General’s Department and the police.

The most significant achievement that could take place through this change is a major reduction in serious crime in Sri Lanka. This is based on the view that delay in the adjudication in criminal trials is the major cause for the increase in crimes in Sri Lanka. It is also is based on how the theory of deterrence works in terms of crimes. Speedy adjudication ensures that there would be speedy punishment of cases where the accused are found guilty. It is a universally accepted norm in criminal justice that certainty of punishment is the greatest deterrence against crimes. Delays in criminal trials mean the absence of such certainty. And it also means creating the hope for criminals to escape from punishment due to various extraneous factors that may result from such delays. In any event, even if a person is found guilty after such a delayed trial, the impact of the punishment will be much less than the impact of punishment meted out within a reasonable time. One reason for this is that by the timethe accused is found guilty of committing a particular crime the memory of that crime would have already been lost due to the prolonged delay. This is what invariably happens in Sri Lanka. The social impact of punishment depends much on the impression that such a punishment would make on the people who have heard about such crime and who would expect such crime not to go unpunished. However, the memory of the crime itself and even such expectations are forgotten as a result of prolonged delay.

Thus, taking a significant step by way of increasing the number of High Courts, this long held curse of prolonged delays can be brought to an end, to a great degree. As a result, people who hear about crimes will also hear within a reasonable time that the criminals have been found and have been punished.

Naturally, the greatest impact would be on the criminals themselves. The prolonged delays, as it exists in Sri Lanka now, has created an impression among the criminals that they have a greater likelihood of escaping punishment, and that in any case their liberty will not be in jeopardy for a long time to come. Naturally, the knowledge of such delays will bring quite a lot of joy to the minds of criminals who are contemplating commission of serious crimes. Such hopes can be dashed by creating the possibilities of speedy trials within Sri Lanka.

The decrease in serious crimes will have enormous impact in the form of enhancing mental health in Sri Lanka. The ease with which crime takes place is one of the major causes for anxiety among the people. The people fear the threat to their lives and that of their loved ones as well as the threat to their property. Increasing the number of High Courts in Sri Lanka could significantly reduce this.

Among the beneficiaries of speedy trials are the vulnerable groups, such as women and children, in particular. It is a daily complaint heard that rape and sexual abuse have increased in great proportions in Sri Lanka. Delays in criminal trials have contributed to this insecurity. Due to this insecurity, in a great many instances, women and parents often do not even make complaints to lawful authorities about being victims of crime. The people who suffer in silence are many. This culture of silence can be broken if a measure such as the increase of High Courts is taken, and this results in speedy trials.

Such a measure will also have a great impact on the Attorney General’s Department and the Department of the Police Services. Both these departments are considered in low esteem, mainly due to the fact that they are unable to convince the people that they have the will and capacity to bring criminals to book. The result isa great demoralisation among the staff of these institutions. Speeding up of trials into serious crimes will encourage the better elements of these institutions to emerge and thus create an attitudinal change among the staff of these institutions.

If a change is achieved in the performance of High Courts, it will have a definite impact on other courts. It will create an impetus for working with greater energy and for achieving better results. In fact, the entire engine of criminal justice may receive a great push towards improvement if this singular measure of the increase of the number of High Courts were to take place soon.

Naturally, this will create a demand for better resources, from within the entire system itself. The age-old lethargy and apathy in all the institutions related to the justice sector could be significantly reduced.

The overall impact will be also felt within the political system. Today, the people also look upon the political system with great cynicism. This system seems to be connected with crime, either through direct involvement of politicians in crime or their indirect patronage. As speedy trials into serious cases will adversely affect the narcotics trade and the other crimes such as money laundering, it will have a direct impact on the political system.

For example had there been a possibility of speedy trials, serious crimes in Sri Lanka, such as the type of crimes that the Rajapaksa regime is accused of engaging in, may not have taken place at all or taken place to a limited extent only. Those who are talking about ending the type of political culture represented by the Rajapaksa regime should seriously reflect upon the means by which those aims can be achieved.

One of the means is to increase the number of High Courts in Sri Lanka and thereby create the possibility of speedy trials into serious crimes becoming an actuality. Thus, the increase in the number of High Courts will have an impact on the overall criminal justice system in Sri Lanka, as well as on the entire social ethos of the country, including its political system.

Therefore, we hope that this singular measure of the increase of the number of High Courts in Sri Lanka will receive the attention of the government leaders, its policy makers, as well as all the opinion makers in Sri Lanka including the civil society and the mass media.

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Latest comments

  • 1

    I am shocked to read there only 28 high courts. There should be atleast 100.

    Many aspects of justice in Sri Lanka, including the countless postponements has left the legal fraternity in a kind of robotic state of mind. Hardly any of them remembers the purpose of law enforcement; much less their duty towards fostering a law abiding citizenry.

    • 4

      Everybody criticises nothing seems to go forwards.

      For 22 million folks – just 28 High courts ? These are the painful realities of so called mid come earners.. ha hah.. all the big mouths only.. seem to be not functioning anything well. So no wonder that FCID takes long- now the evidence is clear…….

    • 3

      Basil Fernando,

      The Courts take on the cases, AFTER, the crime was committed.

      Have you given thoughts as to how to stop the crimes in the first place, BEFORE it was committed? Were the LTTE Criminal activities and terrorism stopped by having more courts? No. You go to the source. Cause and Effect. Have you heard about Aristotelian-ism?

      See what Turkey is trying to do to address the crimes committed by the Islamic Terrorists , ISIS etc.

      Erdogan announces Istanbul-based anti-terror ‘Islamic Interpol’

      “Turkey is not Fighting radicals as much as it is collaborating with them”- Valdamir Putin

      Turkey is trying to unite the Islamic world and lead it in the fight against terror with a new Istanbul-based police force tasked with tackling extremism in the region. At the same time, Ankara has called for “liberation” of “occupied” Islamic lands.
      Turkey crackdown on Kurds
      Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has accepted his proposal to create a multinational police center based in Istanbul to battle international terrorism. The new structure is to be called the OIC Center for Police Cooperation and Coordination.

      “It would be helpful to establish a structure among member states that will strengthen and institutionalize cooperation against terror and other crimes,” he said, during a speech at the two-day OIC summit, as over 30 heads of states from Islamic countries gathered in Istanbul.

      The aim, according to Erdogan, is to fight Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq, Syria and Libya and Boko Haram and Al Shabaab in Africa, as “all these terror organizations oppress and harm all Muslims.”

      Seeking the lead role in uniting some 1.7 billion Muslims under Ankara’s command, Erdogan urged the IOC delegates at the summit to overcome internal differences in Islam.

      “I believe the greatest challenge we need to surmount is sectarianism. My religion is not that of Sunnis, of Shiites. My religion is Islam,” he stated. “We should be uniting. Out of the conflicts, the tyranny, only Muslims suffer,” Erdogan said, as quoted by the Daily Sabah.

      Turkey under the leadership of Erdogan has long been accused by international observers of trying to resurrect the former glory of the Ottoman Empire. At the same time Ankara has been accused by many international entities of inadequately addressing the global terror threat, with even Russian President Putin saying on Thursday that “Turkey’s current leadership does not fight radicals as much as it collaborates with them.”

      While the details of the new Islamic anti-terror police force yet to be made public, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is already calling to “liberate all Islamic lands under occupation.”

      “We need a common stance for the liberation of all the Islamic lands that are under occupation, especially Palestine,” said Davutoglu at the summit, as quoted by Hurriyet Daily. Under the Turkish PM’s plan, the “liberation” of Muslims besides Palestine should also take place in Crimea and the disputed Nagorno- Karabakh region.

      “The most important indicator which would show the effectiveness of the OIC is protecting Muslim minorities and liberating occupied lands such as Palestine, Karabakh and Crimea,” Davutoglu said.


      • 1

        There is a catch about Turkish policy on ISIS.
        Turkey has been the main route for men & materials for ISIS in Syria.
        It was caught red handed receiving stolen Syrian oil from ISIS.
        Russian bombing ended the business, and Ergodan was furious. (His son was a major beneficiary.)
        Turkey and Saudi Arabia are bitterly opposed to the Syrian peace moves. But the West, having lost its war in Syria, has no choice.

        • 1


          “Turkey is not Fighting radicals as much as it is collaborating with them”- Valdamir Putin

  • 3

    An excellent presentation from Basil. He has looked at the problem of the “Laws delay” from all aspects and from the point of all concerned. It is now time that the Government took up the cue and looked at this proposal seriously. Benson

    • 0

      What an ignorant proposal.
      Crime is not due to a shortage of courts.
      Most criminals are psychologically impaired.
      We need more therapeutic facilities, and psychiatrists
      for evaluating criminals; not more courts.
      Even lawyers like Basil should be institutionalized and treated.

      Fraudulent deed writing and such civil crimes are
      easily preventable by introducing proper practices for
      registering all such deeds etc., via the internet in a
      transparent manner.

    • 1

      Bensen, you are none other than Basil Fernando with a different email address.

  • 2

    Laws delays is a bane to all Citizens – the back-log of Cases are
    mounting. To an earlier article on this subject, I made a similar
    suggestion – viz to experimentally have selected Courts work double-
    shift as a short-term remedy. Also bring about a reward-system for
    Courts that adjudicate faster?

    Like the GMOA going against Indian Medics taking up posts in SL, our
    Lawyers including Minister will be better off keeping the present
    status as the standard! Professionals, in both matters do not look at
    the topic in the Countries/Citizenry’s interest Has the Friday-Forum
    any thoughts for real action?

  • 1

    There may be an element of truth in that. increasing the high courts would reduce the waiting time.The real reason is the corruption in the Land registry, Police, and the advise of lawyers. The other is the kid glove treatment of offences like courts of contempt of court and illegality which is the cause of disrespect to the law. The most essential item is the discipline and accountability of the so Neetigna ( Lawyers) Horu. How can you expect justice and FairPlay when lawyers are allowed to write fraudulent deeds and when they get caught it is legal to write another deed which disclaims ownership! This is the absurd state of sri lankan judiciary.

    • 1

      lawyers are allowed to write fraudulent deeds and when they get caught it is legal to write another deed which disclaims ownership:


      Buddhist hierarchy is ready to advise UNHRC Chief but not their parliamentarians?

  • 0

    How does the ratio of High Courts to population vary in
    i. South Asian countries and
    ii.Asian/African/SouthAmerican countries?

  • 1

    The High Courts are corrupt. Increasing them will merely spread the corruption. Better to have just a single High Court run by principled judges than a hundred run by crooks.

  • 1

    Reducing the Politicians by half will also reduce crime by half!

    • 2

      True .
      Most of them are setting bad examples.
      They are heinously promoted by increasing their perks all the time.

  • 0

    “Doubling The Number Of High Courts Will Drastically Reduce Crimes”. Not so sure about that. But I am absolutely sure that lessening the number of politicians will indeed drastically reduce crime.

    • 0

      We all agree. Let us banish the lot.

  • 1

    Amarasiri, mind you that crime is everywhere. In the muslim world, there is still death sentence by stoning but sexual violence did not decrease. Why!
    Increasing the number of high courts is long over due. Not only the courts, we need some experienced judges in the high courts instead of young men and women who come and learn the work at high courts and when they start doing their job they would be promoted to Court of Appeal. So bring back some retired good lawyers, judges and former state counsels as High Court Judges. There are many who would love to work in the high court. They only know how to promote speedy and efficient justice. Those who worked in abroad as lawyers/legal officers/judges would be an asset to the high courts.

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