Money grubbing JPs beware

Justice Minister Wijayadasa Rajapakshe has instructed his ministry officials to nab justices of peace who sell their services and to impose severe punishments on them.

The ministry has received information of justices of peace who charge money from people to issue affidavits and to certify documents. Some justices of peace have offices in front of various state sector organizations to ply their trades. It is illegal for a JP to charge money from people for the services they render. Thus the illegal practice should come to an end, the minister had instructed his officials, a press release issued by the ministry said yesterday.

It says that bestowing the honorary JP title on citizens of Sri Lanka had a history of more than 200 years. It is an honorary post, with authorization to witness and sign statutory declarations and affidavits. They are chosen under the Minister of Justice’s discretion. Any citizen of Sri Lanka can apply to the Ministry of Justice giving his or her credentials to be appointed as a JP. However, the applicant should be one who has served the public and carries out social service and should be of good standing. Amendments to the Judicature Act of 1889 introduced two categories namely ex-officio JPs and honourary JPs. The President of Sri Lanka and his/her officers are ex officio JPs. The ex-officio JP post is conferred on public sector workers ranging from Chief Justice to judges of labour tribunals at their retirement. Currently the post of JP is conferred in accordance with the provisions of the Section 45 of the Judicature Act No 2 of 1978.

The JPs are expected to perform a range of services voluntarily including assisting the police and law enforcement bodies, providing them with information leading to arrest of social delinquents, drug dealers and addicts, child and women abusers. However, currently some of the JPs are engaged in a commercial enterprise making use of their titles to authorize documents and to write affidavits.

Minister Rajapakshe has instructed officials to raid the kiosk type offices maintained by JPs in front of various state sector institutions such as the passport office, Department of Registration of Motor Traffic and Department of Registration of Persons etc., to sell their services. The errant JPs will be dealt with according to the law and their titles would be revoked forthwith, the release adds.

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