Civil law is based on Roman-Dutch law introduced during the period of Dutch rule, but in the area around Kandy, an indigenous type of law prevails. Criminal law is British. Tamils and Muslims have their own laws governing property disposition and certain observances. Sri Lanka's judicial system includes district courts, magistrates' courts, courts of request (restricted to civil cases), and rural courts.
In criminal cases, the Supreme Court (composed of a chief justice and from 6 to 10 associate justices, all appointed by the president) has appellate jurisdiction. Under the 1978 constitution, the other high-level courts are the Court of Appeal, High Court, and courts of first instance. The president also appoints judges to the Court of Appeals and the High Court. A judicial service commission appoints transfers and dismisses lower court judges. Sinhala is the official language of the courts.
The constitution declares the independence of the judiciary and the courts appear to be independent in practice.
Defendants are guaranteed a number of procedural due process protections but trials under the Emergency Regulations (ER) and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) lack significant procedural safeguards.