Dutch Influence on the Laws Sri Lanka (1696 – 1796 AD)

During the Dutch colonial period (1696-1796), the Dutch introduced the Roman-Dutch law to Sri Lanka. This legal system, which was based on the principles of Roman law and adapted to the Dutch context, had a profound impact on the legal framework of the island. The Dutch codified the existing customary laws and incorporated them into their legal system, thereby creating a hybrid form of law that reflected the unique cultural and historical circumstances of Sri Lanka. This legal legacy continued to shape the country’s legal system even after the British took control of the island in 1796, and remains an integral part of Sri Lanka’s legal heritage to this day. Dutch established an elaborate court system.

Dutch Law (or Roman Dutch Law) was applied to Dutch residents (and their native servants), Natives (Sinhala and Tamils) who lived within the Forts and the Christian converts. The extent of RDL applied other Sinhala natives (low country) is not clear. Kandyans never came under RDL. Similarly, Teswalamai, Mulslim Law, Mukkuvar Law, Chettie Law were applied to the respective communities.

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