Procedure adopted by Ministries and Departments in requesting the drafting of principal and amending legislation to be passed by parliament and the revision of subsidiary legislation by the Legal Draftsman's Department.

1. A request to the Legal Draftsman for the preparation of a Bill by the Secretary to the relevant Ministry should be in writing and be accompanied by the following documents:-

  • The Cabinet Memorandum, which sets out the policy on which the proposed legislation is to be based and which seeks the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers for the drafting of such legislation;
  • The Cabinet Decision relating to the Memorandum; and
  • Other relevant documents containing information which would facilitate the drafting the legislation.

2.The Legal Draftsman would thereupon prepare a preliminary draft Bill of the proposed legislation (in English) and this draft Bill would be forwarded to the requesting Ministry for its observations.

3. Upon final confirmation from the requesting Ministry that the preliminary draft Bill is in conformity with the policy decided on by the Cabinet of Ministers, the Legal Draftsman will send out to the requesting Ministry the final draft of the relevant Bill, along with a copy thereof to the Attorney - General.

4. The Attorney - General will thereupon, in pursuance of the provisions of Article 77 of the Constitution, make observations on the constitutionality of the draft Bill and where the provisions of the draft Bill, in his opinion -

  • do not contravene the provisions of the Constitution, the Attorney - General will issue a certificate to that effect to the requesting Ministry with a copy to the Legal Draftsman; or
  • contravene any provision of the Constitution, the Attorney - General would make his observations accordingly to the requesting Ministry with a copy to the Legal Draftsman. Upon such amendments being made to the draft Bill, the Attorney- General would issue a Certificate to the effect that the provisions do not contravene any provision of the Constitution.

5. Upon receipt of the Certificate of the Attorney-General, the Legal Draftsman will then forward the Sinhala and Tamil drafts of the Bill to the requesting Ministry. In the case of amending legislation, a Statement of Legal Effect in all three languages will also be forwarded to the Ministry at this stage.

6. The requesting Ministry will then, submit the draft Bill to the Cabinet of Ministers in all three languages and seek approval for the draft Bill to be published in Part II of the Gazette and to present it in Parliament. If, at this stage the Cabinet of Ministers decides that further amendments need to be made to the draft legislation, then the Ministry should forward the relevant Cabinet Decision along with the copies of the draft in all three languages and the statement of legal effect, if any, to the Legal Draftsman for the relevant amendments to be incorporated in the draft.

7. If the situation envisaged in para 6 arises, then the procedure set out in paragraphs 3, 4 and 5 shall then be followed again.

8. Once the Cabinet of Ministers approves the publication of the Bill in the Government Gazette, the Ministry should forward the draft in all three languages to the Government Printer. The draft  Bill is first published as a Supplement to the Government Gazette, and when printed in all three languages, the proofs will be sent to the Legal Draftsman, by the printer for final proof reading and approval.

9. The draft Bill once published in the Gazette shall in terms of the Constitution, be placed on the order paper of Parliament only after the expiry of 14 days from the date of publication. After the presentation (first reading) Parliament directs the Secretary-General of Parliament to print it in the form of a Bill and a number is given. Only a change in the appearance of the cover page takes place and no change is made to the substance of the draft.

10. Once a Bill is placed on the Order paper and a date for the Second Reading Debate (on a day not earlier than seven days from the day it was presented) is fixed. Such period is given for any citizen to challenge the Bill in the Supreme Court. It is at the Committee Stage of the Bill, which takes place after the Second Reading that any change arising in connection with the matters being debated, may be made by way of Committee Stage Amendments. No new matter outside of the policy initially approved by the Cabinet of Ministers may be included by way of Committee Stage Amendments.

Amendments to be moved at the Committee Stage of a Bill

  • If amendments are proposed to the Bill at any time before the Bill is taken up for Debate by Parliament, the requesting Ministry will request the Legal Draftsman to draft the necessary amendments in the form of Committee Stage Amendments which are to be moved at the Committee Stage of a Bill. Once these amendments are prepared by the Legal Draftsman in all three languages, copies will be sent to the Attorney - General and the Secretary-General of Parliament at least a day before the Bill is fixed for the Second Reading.
  • It should be noted that since the policy of the Legislation has already been approved by the Cabinet of Ministers, and it cannot be challenged no changes in the policy of legislation or any substantial change in any of its provisions should be introduced by way of Committee Stage Amendments: the only exception being where it is an imperative measure which is sought to be introduced and the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers has been obtained thereof.
  • If at any time during the Debate on the Bill, the requesting Ministry agrees to the making of certain amendments to the draft Bill, then, they must communicate it to the officer of the Legal Draftsman's Department who is present in Parliament during the Debate. Such Amendments will be prepared by such officer before the Committee Stage of the Bill and given to the officials of the Ministry and to the Secretary-General of Parliament. The amendments must be given to the relevant Minister so that the Committee Stage Amendments can be moved by him at the Committee Stage of the Bill. No Amendment which seeks to introduce any matter which may be unconstitutional should be sought to be introduced at this Stage. The officers of the Legal Draftsman’s Department and the Attorney - General’s Department will give necessary advice on this matter.
  • If there are Committee Stage Amendments moved to a Bill, then the officer from the Attorney - General’s Department who is present in Parliament will issue a Certificate on the Constitutionality of the amendments/Bill to the Secretary - General of Parliament.

Subsidiary Legislation

Regulations, Rules, Orders, By-laws and other Notifications or Proclamations having the effect of law

  • Subsidiary legislation is required to be drafted by the line - Ministry and sent to the Legal Draftsman for revision. It must be in duplicate, in all three languages. (Chapter XXXIII of the Establishments Code).
  • Draft subsidiary legislation would be revised and sent back to the relevant Ministry by the Legal Draftsman. If it includes Schedules the responsibility for the accuracy of the technical or other information peculiar to the subject would remain with the Ministry concerned.
  • If the draft subsidiary legislation sent to the Legal Draftsman’s Department is substantially inadequate and cannot be used as a base, then the necessary subsidiary legislation will be drafted afresh by the Legal Draftsman’s Department and translated and sent out in all three languages to the requesting Ministry. Subsidiary legislation once signed by the person authorized to make them must be published in the Gazette. Subsidiary legislation takes effect upon Gazetting or on a date specified. However, they must be placed before Parliament as soon as is convenient thereafter. If the Gazetted Subsidiary Legislation does not receive the approval of Parliament then it is deemed to be rescinded as from such date, without prejudice to anything done thereunder.
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