A special three-year plan will be implemented to reduce the current congestion in the judiciary and expedite the settlement of cases, Justice Minister PC Ali Sabry said during a meeting of the Ministerial Consultative Committee on Justice on Tuesday (August 03).
The committee has discussed the “Three Year Plan on Establishment of New Courts and Development of Infrastructure Facilities in Western Province. State Ministers Lohan Ratwatte, Susil Premajayantha, Piyal Nishantha and Members of Parliament Prof. Tissa Vitarana, Sagara Kariyawasam, PC Jayantha Weerasinghe, Marjan Faleel, Chandima Weerakkody and Kokila Gunawardena, Secretary to the Ministry of Justice M.P.K Mayadunne and other officials have attended the said meeting.
Although there are more than 200 judges per million population in the developed countries, Sri Lanka now has only 15 judges, the minister said. Accordingly, the number of judges is expected to be increased to 218 and the number of courts to 245, the Minister said.
He further stated that the development of the infrastructure required for these judges will be expedited under this next three-year plan.
It was revealed that the digitization of the judiciary has already begun and an agreement has been reached with the relevant technological service providers to conduct court meetings through e-filing system and video conference system.
It is expected to strengthen the Mediation Board and the number of disputes resolved is expected to double by next year. It was also revealed that steps have been taken to establish land mediation boards in several areas including Jaffna, Anuradhapura, Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Kilinochchi to resolve land disputes.
The minister said that several expert committees have been set up to reform the judicial System and the report of the committee set up under the chairmanship of Supreme Court Judge Samayawardena has been received. In line with the recommendations of this committee report, infrastructure facilities including the establishment of new courts will be improved, he added.
It was revealed that steps will be taken to construct new District Courts in Mahara and Welisara, a Magistrate Court and a District Court in Mirigama, Magistrate Courts in Beruwala and Kalutara Meegahatenna areas in accordance with the recommendations of the committee.
As the lawmakers pointed out the existing shortcomings in the courts, the minister said that steps would be taken under this three-year plan to renovate them as soon as possible and instructed the officials.
The minister also stated that separate courts will be set up for cases involving financial crimes of less than Rs. 1.5 million to avoid delays in hearing large scale financial crime cases and small financial fraud cases in the same court.
Emphasizing the importance of the community correction process that is being implemented instead of punishing, the minister said that all possible steps will be taken to improve community correction.
The minister also said that the House of Justice currently being constructed in Colombo will be completed soon, bringing many courts under one roof. It will be built on an area of 6.5 acres and the Ministry of Justice will also be established in the complex. Fifty houses will also be constructed for judges. The minister said that he was personally monitoring the progress of the project which is being implemented in four phases and that the construction will be completed soon.
He also noted that the renovation of the Hulftsdorf Court Complex is being expedited. Although the Chinese government has provided a grant of around 500 million yuan for this purpose, it has been delayed since 2010, the minister pointed out.
State Minister Piyal Nishantha inquired about the possibility of expediting child abuse cases. The Chief Justice has recently issued a special circular in this regard last week and accordingly the cases pertaining to child abuse cases will be heard and completed expeditiously, the minister said.