The Irish cricket team was on hand last weekend to help the Dublin based Blackhall Publishers launch ‘Laws of Sri Lanka’. The set of nine books, amounting to approximately 10,000 pages, contains all the acts and amendments on which the legal framework of the island rests. The books are expected to sell well abroad, being of particular interest to would-be investors as well as others considering setting up shop in Sri Lanka. However, the price tag of Rs. 90,000 might give local collectors a pause.
The last official statute book was released in 1956 and was updated by an official publication in 1980, says K.M Basheer Ahamed, an Advocate and Attorney-at-Law who served as a local consultant on the project. However, those interested in keeping track of amendments made in the years that followed used to have to put in the leg work themselves. “Here every detail is consolidated into the act itself so you do not have the laborious task of having to search through the 1980 edition and go year by year up to 2012,” said Mr. Ahamed. “We have consolidated, updated it, annotated it, made it live right up to July 31, 2012,” added Dheeraj Bothra, a Managing Editor for Blackhall based in India. “This is a product that a country should have for its law practice,” he said.
Sri Lanka’s judicial framework represents a complex melange of laws drawn from Roman Dutch Law, England, Holland, South India and Old Ceylon – one that is sometimes difficult for outsiders to navigate. “One of the important aspects of this is that there is a lot of investor interest in Sri Lanka,” said Ciaran MacGlinchey, Publishing Director at Blackhall, anticipating that a large percentage of sales will be made in foreign markets.
Blackhall specialises in “jurisdictions that are overlooked by bigger publishers,” MacGlinchey explained, citing their work in places like Jamaica, The Isle of Man, Botswana and most recently, Malawi. For the ‘Laws of Sri Lanka’, the publishers decided that the heavy volumes would be organised alphabetically and be prefaced with an extensive index. According to MacGlinchey, first collecting the source material and then ironing out the anomalies they found proved to be the biggest challenges. “What happens when an amending act amends a section that doesn’t exist?” he asks, saying that finding the right answers took time. In the end, the company spent two years compiling the series.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to come to Sri Lanka. We want to use this as a launch pad for further legal publishing,” MacGlinchey said, anticipating producing specialised texts that would meet the requirements of the legal fraternity here.
Luckily, these latter editions are likely to be more competitively priced. While $600 for the current set might not seem so unreasonable in a country like the U.S.A, Blackhall is “very cognizant of the fact that we are in Sri Lanka, we’re not in New York City, hence our need to get into business with Stamford Lake and produce books that are priced correctly for the market,” says MacGlinchey.
In Sri Lanka Blackhall has committed to working exclusively with Lake House Bookshop to distribute the books and are planning to work with Stamford Lake Publications on later editions. The market will dictate whether they will reprint the entire series in six months or will simply issue cumulative updates. Currently, clients also have the option of buying the series on a CD-Rom or accessing the online database, which is kept up to date.