Legal aid commission
Mudusam, Chidenam, Thediatettam – decoding Thesawalamai
The law of Thesawalamai is one of the three customary laws (Kandyan
Law and Muslim Law being the other two) which are in use in the legal
system of our country today.
Justice Ministry Secretary Kamalini de Silva addressing the
audience at the Women’s Day Celebration organized by the
Legal Aid Commission on March 8 at Kadawatha.
It is the customs of the Tamil inhabitants of the NorthernProvince
which was codified by the Dutch in 1707. However a large part of the
Thesawalamai Code has fallen in to disuse even though these sections
were never formally repealed. Today Thesawalamai is a collaboration of
certain portions of the original Code of 1707, Jaffna Matrimonial Rights
and inheritance Ordinance No1 0f 1911 (JMRIO) which amended the Code to
a great extent, customs and Superior Court decisions.
Thesawalamai has the characteristics of both personal law and
territorial law. Certain portions of the law apply to all lands situated
in the Northern Province who ever may be the owner (Territorial) and the
rest applies to all Tamils who are described as inhabitants of the
Northern Province (Personal). It is left to the person who alleges that
Thesawalamai applies to a particular person, to prove the applicability.
According to the Jaffna Matrimonial Rights and Inheritance Ordinance, a
woman’s capacity to be governed by Thesawalamai would vary according to
whether her husband is governed by this law or not, during the
subsistence of the marriage.
Division of property
Property in Thesawalamai is divided in to three main categories
according to the Jaffna Matrimonial Rights and Inheritance Ordinance.
Mudusam / Urumai or hereditary property:
Mudusam or Urumai is property devolving to a person by decent, the
former from his or her parent the latter from a relative other than a
Under the Old Thesawalamai code property brought in to the marriage
by a husband was also commonly referred to as Mudusam. However during
the existence of the marriage if this property was sold to acquire new
property, the new property will retain the characteristics and still be
considered as Mudusam property.
Chidenam or dowry property:
Dowry can be given from both the mother’s and the father’s property.
When both parents are alive the father has the right to grant dowry from
either his or his wife’s property. Dowry can be either given before or
during the existence of the marriage.
It can even be given when no marriage is in contemplation. However
the deed to transfer the land should be notarially executed for it to be
valid. The dowry property is considered the separate property of the
wife. It is not liable for the debts of the husband, nor are the rents
and profits arising out of it.
If the husband squanders the dowry and the dowry is diminished during
marriage, the husband has to replace this value, from the property he
has acquired during marriage, before the property is divided after his
wife’s death. However if the property was considerably improved, the
wife’s heirs cannot claim the expenses incurred for such improvements on
Thediatettam or acquired property:
The JMRIO defines this kind of property as, property acquired for
valuable consideration by either spouse, during the subsistence of a
marriage, or the profits which arise from the spouses’ marriage
However if property is acquired either by selling or using for that
purpose, the wife’s or husband’s property brought in to the marriage,
that property shall not be considered as Thediatettam and it will retain
its original character as either dowry or Muthusam.
If a property is acquired for money or any other valuable
consideration by a spouse during the marriage it remains that spouse’s
property until death, at which point the other spouse would become an
heir to one half of that property.
Swasthika Arulingam AAL, Director, Legal Aid Centre for Victims of
[Questions and Answers]
Social service to public
Question: Please let me know the services provided by the
Department of Social Service to the public?
Answer: The Social Services Department has provided many
services to the public. Each Divisional secretariat has a social service
officer. If you want to get the following services you always can
contact him via in your area. The services are states as follows.
* Conducting training programmes for the staff and referring them to
outside training programmes
* Provision of vocational training for disabled youth, provision of
implements of trade for self- employment, referring them for open
employment and provision of assistive devices for the disabled persons
* Provision of shelter and care for the mentally retarded boys
* Issue of special identity cards for the deaf persons
* Conducting early intervention programmes through Child Guidance
Centre. Conducting awareness programmes for the parents and conducting
teacher training programmes
* Rehabilitation of drug addicts and detoxified addicts through
residential training programmes and home based training programmes and
provision pf vocational training and referring them to open and
self-employment, conducting awareness programmes for school children,
community workers and parents
* Recommendation of duty waiver for the donations received from
abroad to the NGOs registered under the Ministry of Social Services and
Social Welfare and also recommendation of approved charity status for
the NGOs and recommendation of concessionary rates for water and
electricity bills for NGOs.
* Provision of financial assistance and other assistance to voluntary
Question : I married a rich lady. We have two children. But my
wife ignores me and neglects to maintain me and my children. I have no
income. I have now decided to file a maintenance case. Can I do it?
However I am unable to do so because the Marriage Certificate is under
the custody of my wife, I want to know whether as a husband I could file
a maintenance case without the Marriage Certificate. Your early reply
would be greatly appreciated.
Answer: According to the Maintenance Act No 37 of the 1999, As
a husband you can file a maintenance case on behalf of you and your
children against your wife. If you are keen to file a maintenance case,
you must first obtain a certified copy of the Marriage Certificate.
Without the Marriage Certificate, you are unable to prove that you are
married. If you know the date and place of marriage, you can apply for a
certified copy of your Marriage Certificate from the Divisional
Secretary’s Office where your marriage took place. If you want to ask
maintenance of your children you have to submit the children's birth
If you need any help you can contact our legal aid centres in island
Question: My mother died at my brother’s place at Negombo two
years ago. Her Death Certificate is with my brother and he is presently
in Italy. My father died in America a year ago. I now wish to get a copy
of my Parent’s Death Certificates as I am her second daughter. Can I get
a copy of the same? I also wish to get a translation of the Death
Answer: If you know date of death and the name of the person,
you can apply for a certified copy of the Death Certificate from the
Divisional Secretary’s Office where the death occurred. The application
form used to obtain Death Certificate is Form 63(a). Since your mother
had died in Negombo, you have to visit the Divisional Secretary’s Office
in Negombo and apply for a certified copy of your mother’s Death
Certificate after obtaining and filling the Form 63(a).
For your father's Death certificates you have to apply for a
certified copy of the Death Certificate from the Central record Room at
Maligawaththa, Colombo 10
For the purpose of obtaining a translation of the same, you could get
this done from the Registrar-General’s Office at Major Denzil
Kobbekaduwa Mawatha, Battaramulla.
Changing name in birth certificate
Question: I was born in Bulathkohupitiya. In the Birth
Certificate my name appears as “M. Kasturiarachchi”.
I am now an American citizen, domiciled in the United States. In all
my documents, including the passport and citizenship certificate, my
name is given as M.Kasture – (abbreviated for convenience).
I intend to apply for Sri Lankan Citizenship and eventually come back
home. Having a different name in my Birth Certificate can create
problems for me.
Can I change my name in the Birth Certificate to M. Kasturi? If no,
please advise to the steps to be taken.
Answer: Under the Birth and Deaths Ordinance, you can change
the name in your Birth Certificate at any time.
You have to visit the Divisional Secretary’s Office and get the
application form. Thereafter fill the same and hand it over to the
Divisional Secretary’s Office where you were born. In that procedure you
have to submit an affidavit with three documents to prove that you are
using the proposed name for the last one year. Otherwise you have to put
a paper advertisement regarding the proposed name and use it for one
Thereafter you can change the name. In that case, your Birth
Certificate can be amended according to the proposed name. In Cage 13 of
your Birth Certificate, your new name will be seen.
Transfer of motor vehicles
Question: I bought a new vehicle which was registered under
one of my friends name.
I want to transfer this vehicle under my name. Please let me know the
procedure that I have to follow?
Answer: When you buy a vehicle it is advisable to transfer it
as soon as possible. For this you have to visit the Motor Traffic
Department at Narahenpita with the completed relevant Documents. The
procedure state as follows:
• Transfer Notice (MTA 6)
• Application (MTA8)
• Certificate of registration of vehicles (CR)
• Two photographs certified by the Grama Niladhari of the transferee
(cm 3.5 x 2.5)
• Revenue license for the relevant year of transfer along with
• Transfer tax for a Motor Car is Rs. 3,000 (If the vehicle is
transferred within seven years from the date of first registration this
amount should be paid on first transfer)
• Originals of the receipts for the payment of diesel and luxurious
vehicle taxes and their photo copies (Diesel tax receipts from 1995 up
to the date of transfer in respect of diesel motor vehicles and dual
• If the vehicle number begins with an English letter, VIC should be
produced. If the transferee and the transferor are from two different
Provincial Councils old set of number plates should be produced and fees
should also be paid. (In case of vehicles beginning with English letters
Eg. GA, GB, HA)
• Receipts for the payment of luxurious and semi luxurious vehicle,
taxes depending on the cylinder capacity of the vehicle
One day service for transfer of vehicles
• Under this Special Service, transferees can get the vehicles
transferred on one day if they present themselves personally and
establish their identity.
• The transferee of the relevant vehicle should present himself
personally and establish his identity.
• Duplicate Certificates of registration will not be accepted under
• Photocopies of receipts for the payment of diesel tax, luxurious
vehicle tax and semi luxurious vehicle? tax should be produced.
In addition to above matters other conditions relating to
registration should also be fulfilled for the transfer of a vehicle.
Question: I came to know that Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign
Employment (SLBFE) wants all those leaving for overseas jobs to sign a
job agreement in order to get them registered with the Bureau prior to
their departure. What kind of information does it contain? Please advice
Answer: If you are a male worker, domestic worker for non Middle
Eastern countries or a skilled female worker you should sign an
agreement with the local recruitment agent. Domestic workers leaving to
Middle Eastern countries must sign an agreement at the Embassy of that
The following signatures and endorsements should be available on the
If recruitment is done by an agent:
1. Signature of employer
2. Signature of foreign agent
3. Signature of the Embassy / Consulate official
4. Signature of local agent
5. Signature of housemaid
If you are going abroad through a visa sent by a friend or a
1. Signature of the employer
2. Signature of Embassy / Consulate official
3. Signature of House maid
You can use the following guidelines in the agreement:
2. Salary deductions
3. Rest days
4. Annual and casual leave
5. Medical benefits
8. Termination of contract
9. Dispute settlement
10. Transfer of employment
12. Airfare cost
Duplicate of vehicle certificate
Question: I have lost my certificate of registration and
vehicle identification card. I want to know whether is there any
possibility to get it back from the Motor Traffic Department.
Answer: Yes, you can get the duplicate of certificate of
registration (CR) and vehicle identification card (VIC /STICKER / NUMBER
PLATE) from the Motor Traffic Department at Narahenpita.
Documents required to obtain a duplicate of certificate of
registration (cr) and vehicle identification card (vic /sticker / number
• Application (CMT65)
• In case of loss of original of certificate of registration, vehicle
identification card, sticker, number plate, a Copy of the complaint made
to the Police by the applicant
• If original of VIC/sticker/number plate is
deformed/damaged/destroyed such originals should also be submitted.
• If absolute ownership or mortgage has been registered a report
obtained from the relevant institution to the effect that there is no
objection to issue a duplicate.
• Receipts for the payment of specific taxes for the diesel card,
dual purpose vehicles, luxurious and semi luxurious vehicles.
Vocational Training Centres
Question: Please let me know the contact details of the
vocational traning centres which are registered by the social service
department in Sri Lanka .
Answer: Vocational Training Centres
* Seeduwa Vocational Training Centre
Tel. No. - 011-225305
* Amunukumbura Vocational Training Centre
Tel. No. – 033-227931
* Rehabilitation Hospital Ragama
Vocational Training Section, Ragama.
Tel. No. – 011-2958212
* Ketawela-leula Vocational Training Centre
Tel. No. – 082-2225403
* Wattegama Vocational Training Centre
Tel. No. – 084-2276209
* Thelambuyaya Vocational Training Centre
Tel. No. 047-2228333
* Child Guidance Centre
Tel. No. – 011-2746801
* J.ayaviru Sevana
North ambalanwatta, Puwakpitiya,
Day Centre for detoxified drug addicts
Vauxhall St., Colombo 2.
Residential Centre for drug addicts
Jayaviru Samadhi Nivahana,
North Ambalamwatte Road, Puwakpitiya.
Run by NGOs
* Sarvodaya Suwasetha Vocational Training Centre
55, de Soyza Rd., Rawathawatta, Moratuwa.
Tel. No. – 011-2647158
* St. Thomas Dress Making Centre for Deaf
220, Idama, Galle Road, Moratuwa.
Tel. No. – 011-2644304
* Rehab Lanka
Keththarama Temple Rd., Maligawatta, Colombo 10.
Tel. No. – 011-2689287
* Islamic Centre for Rehabilitation of Disabled
Tel. No. – 033-287840
* Sukitha Vocational Training Centre for Women
Padukka Rd., Horana.
Tel. No. – 034-261037
* Sarvodaya Suwasetha Centre
Maha Heenatiyangala, Kalutara.
* Saviya Sanwardana Foundation
Vocational Training Centre for Physically Handicapped Kandegodawatta,
Tel. No. – 09-2234281
* St. Joseph Sathwa Sadhana Centre
Walakumburumulla, Weralugama, Kuliyapitiya.
Tel. No. -037-2282471
* Vocational Training Centre for Disabled
Perera Mawatha, Bandarawela.
Tel. No. – 0572223705
* Swarnadhama Foundation Dunkannawa, Chilaw.
Tel. No. – 032-2251222
* Centre for Disabled Women Pahalagama Rd., Kongollawa, Thalawa.
Tel. No. – 025-2257586