Multiple Legal systems of law in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan legal system is a combination of multiple sub-systems. When the Portuguese arrived in 1505, there were two communities mainly;

Sinhalese who occupied the South & West hinterlands of Ceylon were predominantly Buddhists. Sinhala Law originated from the Sinhalese customs, Buddhist canonical teachings, practices & rites. Sinhala Law was divided into Low Country Sinhalese Laws & Kandyan Laws with the arrival of the Portuguese. Neither the Portuguese nor the Dutch could occupy the Kandyan Kingdom.

Tamils who occupied the North & East of Ceylon were predominantly Hindus. Tesawalamai was adopted, which literally means law or customs of the land. This was brought by Tamil immigrants who came from the coasts of Malabar and Coromandel.

Besides these, there were

Muslims who came to Ceylon as traders adopted the Muslim Law to govern their disputes and were scattered all over Ceylon in small groups.

Mukkuvars, a fisher caste from the South-West coast of India, settled in Jaffna, Puttalam, Kalpitiya & Batticaloa.

Chetties, Parsees & Paravars were also recognised by the Dutch & British rulers.

Christian Customary Law has been developed over a period of time. Gracia Catherine v Wijegunawardena

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