In Sri Lanka, a Justice of the Peace and Unofficial magistrate (also known as Acting magistrate) is a judicial appointment made by the
Minister of Justice A justice ministry, ministry of justice, or department of justice is a ministry or other government agency in charge of the administration of justice. The ministry or department is often headed by a minister of justice (minister for justice in ...
to a particular jurisdiction under the ''Judicature Act No 02 of 1978''. An Unofficial magistrate is a senior
Attorney at law Attorney at law or attorney-at-law, usually abbreviated in everyday speech to attorney, is the preferred term for a practising lawyer in certain jurisdictions, including South Africa (for certain lawyers), Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and the Un ...
(with 15 years or more practice), who is a
Justice of the Peace A justice of the peace (JP) is a judicial officer of a lower or '' puisne'' court, elected or appointed by means of a commission (letters patent) to keep the peace. In past centuries the term commissioner of the peace was often used with the sa ...
and has the powers and authority vested in a
Magistrate The term magistrate is used in a variety of systems of governments and laws to refer to a civilian officer who administers the law. In ancient Rome, a ''magistratus'' was one of the highest ranking government officers, and possessed both judic ...
except the power to hear, try, or determine civil or criminal cases. Persons appointed as Unofficial magistrates may use the post-nominal JP, UM. Commonly found in magistrate courts in remote areas where there are only one Magistrate and/or Additional Magistrate, it is a nominal position awarded to a senior lawyer of the court, who as the unofficial magistrate site on behalf of the magistrate in his/her absence and postpone hearings to a later date, grant bail and remand arrested suspects pending magisterial inquiry.


The post was formally known as Justice of the Peace and Un-Official Police Magistrate (JP UPM) when the magistrate courts were known as police magistrate courts. Under the ''Ordinance No. 16 on 1865 section 28'', unofficial magistrates had powers to appoint persons to the special police reserve, where requested to do by a
Superintendent of Police Superintendent (Supt) is a rank in the British police and in most English-speaking Commonwealth nations. In many Commonwealth countries, the full version is superintendent of police (SP). The rank is also used in most British Overseas Territories ...
or an Assistant Superintendent of Police. These powers were used during the 1915 riots.


Under the provisions of the ''Municipal Councils Ordinance'', the
Mayor In many countries, a mayor is the highest-ranking official in a municipal government such as that of a city or a town. Worldwide, there is a wide variance in local laws and customs regarding the powers and responsibilities of a mayor as well ...
and Deputy Mayor of a Municipal Council are ex-official Justice of the Peace and Unofficial magistrate for the administrative district in which the Municipality is situated. This would be to cover the functions of the Municipal Magistrate Court in the absence of the Magistrate assigned to it.


Although unofficial magistrates have the power to grant
bail Bail is a set of pre-trial restrictions that are imposed on a suspect to ensure that they will not hamper the judicial process. Bail is the conditional release of a defendant with the promise to appear in court when required. In some countrie ...
, accusations have been made that certain lawyers presiding as unofficial magistrates have granted bail to their clients.Appointment of unofficial magistrates

Notable appointees

Sir ''Sir'' is a formal honorific address in English for men, derived from Sire in the High Middle Ages. Both are derived from the old French "Sieur" (Lord), brought to England by the French-speaking Normans, and which now exist in French only as p ...
Razik Fareed,
OBE The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the civil service. It was established ...
, JP, UM *
Gate Mudaliyar Mudali (or Mudaliyar) was a colonial title and office in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) which was part of the native headman system. The Portuguese colonials created the Mudaliyar class in the 17th century by enlisting natives of different castes fro ...
Edmund Peiris, JP, UM * Sam J.C.Kadirgamar Sr, JP, UM * James Aubrey Martensz, CBE, JP, UM * T. Rudra, JP, UM * T.G. Gooneratne, JP, UM

See also

Magistrate's Courts of Sri Lanka The magistrate's courts in Sri Lanka is a lower court headed by a magistrate who is vested with original criminal jurisdiction. Jurisdiction Originally known as police magistrate's courts, current magistrate's courts are established under the ...
* Unofficial Bar


Justice of the Peace and Unofficial Magistrate
Law of Sri Lanka * *