Catalogue of the Archives of the Dutch Central Government of Coastal Ceylon, 1640-1796

Description of the Subordinate Components


The Colombo "Civiele Raad" or "College van Huwelijksche en Kleine Gerechtszaken".
In the towns, petty cases not exceeding 120 "rijksdaalders" (rix-dollars), and matrimonial cases of Christians in general came before the "civiele raad" (civil -court) or "stadsraad" (town council), as stated in one of the documents: "in order that important and unimportant matters do not get mixed".
This court was established in Colombo on the 10th of June 1659 according to the model in Batavia. It consisted of both free-burghers and Company's servants, the former having three and the latter five seats. The town court had only a very faint resemblance to the dignified town councils in Holland, in regard to its name and jurisdiction, as well as in the method of election of its officers. Every year in Colombo, on the 12th of May, which was the anniversary of the capture of the town from the Portuguese, the court submitted a list with twice as many names of persons as there were seats in the court, with a request to the Governor in Council that the most suitable members may be elected from them for the ensuing year. The Governor and the Council almost invariably elected one of the two persons nominated in the list, and the court confirmed this choice. It may be remembered that the choice of the Amsterdam burgomasters by the prince of Orange was made in practically the same way. As far as we could gather from the records, the "hoofdadministrateur" was invariably the chairman and one of the eight members forming the court.
Civil courts were established in the three large towns only, viz., Colombo, Jaffna and Galle. Before the existence of the "landraad" in 1741, the "civiele raad" adjudicated in petty cases, both within and without the fort, which exceeded the scope of the dessave's authority but were below the monetary limit prescribed for the jurisdiction of the "raad van justitie".