electronic contracting

The COVID-19 pandemic has created situations unprecedented, preventing a physical presence of persons necessary for transacting of business at one time in the same space with a ‘wet signature’ sealing the deal! Technology in the form of the online platforms have facilitated the ‘meeting’ of people at a global level via video conferencing and other mechanisms, making possible the continuation of business, to include negotiation and concluding of transactions; this situation demanding the required tools to implement with legal validity and enforceability the business transacted both at a domestic and global level. Thus, the heightened importance of concluding transactions electronically with reliance on electronic and digital signatures, which although provided for by law in Sri Lanka not being a methodology favoured and so not commonly availed of pre-COVID-19 primarily due to deep rooted cultural issues of ‘trust’ of the unseen processes in the cyber sphere. The country however, having legislated for limited electronic transacting with sector specific laws such as in the financial sector from the year 2004.


Sri Lanka enacting a historical piece of legislation in the form of the Electronic Transaction Act No. 19 of 2006 [ETA] bringing within its scope ‘all business and commercial transactions which are electronic in nature’ in this way, expanding the reach of the electronic medium to ALL sectors. It being the first country in South Asia and the third in the Asian Region to sign the United Nations Convention on the ‘Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts’ soon after legislating. The ETA is founded on international standards, being modelled on the UNICITRAL model law on E- Commerce (1996) and the Model Law on Signatures (2001), accordingly, the language, key words and definitions being consistent with that in the model laws and so also with many comparative laws in other jurisdictions. The Act having been substantially amended as recently as 2017 is a progressive and enabling piece of legislation, providing for a digital solution to commerce and trade both domestic and cross-border, albeit, in its infancy in Sri Lanka with no available mass of judicial precedent on its practical implementation.

斯里兰卡以2006年第19号《电子交易法》的形式颁布了一项历史性立法,将“所有本质上是电子的商业和商业交易”纳入了其范围,从而扩大了电子交易的范围中到所有领域。它是南亚第一个、也是亚洲地区第三个在立法后不久就签署联合国《国际合同使用电子通信公约》的国家。 ETA建立在国际标准的基础上,以贸易法委会电子商务示范法(1996年)和签名示范法(2001年)为模型,因此,语言,关键词和定义一致,也与其他司法管辖区的许多比较法一致。该法案于2017年进行了重大修订,是一项渐进的授权法案,为斯里兰卡的国内和跨境商业和贸易提供了数字解决方案,尽管该方案在斯里兰卡尚处于初期阶段,尚无大量关于其实际实施中的司法判例。

The Act whilst giving legal recognition to electronic communication/ contracts, is seeking to establish a legal structure outside of the existing laws, validating electronic transactions whilst providing for proper regulation to ensure a firm legal foundation and importantly also providing for the much needed digital empowerment of the State sector. It has as its objects ‘the facilitation of domestic and international electronic commerce by eliminating legal barriers and establishing legal certainty, encouraging the use of reliable forms of electronic commerce, facilitating electronic filing of documents with government and to promote efficient delivery of government services by means of reliable forms of electronic communications and to promote public confidence in the authenticity, integrity and reliability of data messages and electronic communications.

该法案在从法律上承认电子通讯/合同的同时,还试图在在现有法律之外建立法律结构,使电子交易有效,同时提供适当的法规以确保又一个坚实的法律基础,并且重要的是还为国有部门提供了迫切需要的数字授权。 它的目标是“通过消除法律障碍和建立法律确定性来促进国内和国际电子商务,鼓励使用可靠的电子商务形式,促进以电子方式向政府提交文件并通过可靠的电子通信形式促进政府提供有效服务,以促进公众对书籍消息和电子通信的真实性、完整性和可靠性的信心。

The scope of the Act does not bring within it; a Last Will, Power-of-Attorney, Contract for the Sale or Conveyance of or any interest in immovable property, Trust (excluding Constructive, Implied and Resulting trusts) all such documents specifically legislated for and requiring mandatory form and formalities such as notarization. Electronic notarization has been facilitated as a temporary measure in many jurisdictions during this pandemic period; we are hopeful that required amendment to the Act would be considered to allow for it, for although not in nature of ‘commercial’ documentation often relevant to or collateral writings in a commercial deal, considering that the requirement of notarization is an integral part of validating such writings in Sri Lanka; further excluded from the scope of the Act are, A Bill of Exchange, Telecommunication Licence, any financial matter in the nature of (i) transactions on a regulated exchange (ii) foreign exchange transactions (iii) inter-bank payment systems, inter-bank payment agreements or clearance and settlement systems relating to securities or other financial assets or instruments (iv) the transfer of security rights in sale, loan or holding of or agreement to repurchase securities or other financial assets or instruments held with an intermediary- the section also providing for exclusion of any other document specified by regulations with no other documents specified as of date.


With a non-exhaustive definition provided for the term ‘Electronic Communication’ the Act gives express legal recognition to all forms of ‘Electronic Communication in providing that ‘no data message, electronic document, electronic record or other communication shall be denied legal recognition, effect or validity or enforceability on the ground that it is in electronic form’.

该法对“电子通信”一词做出了非详尽的定义,该法对所有形式的“电子通信”都给予了明确的法律承认,规定“不得以数据电文,电子文档,电子记录或其他通信是电子形式为由而否定其法律承认、效力 或以此为依据的有效性或可执行性”。

The Act, cutting across the entire gamut of law by overriding the necessity in ‘any other law’ inter-alia requirements of ‘writing’, ‘and/or retention and/or ‘original form’ and for ‘ink signature’ by establishing a functional equivalence between electronic communications and paper documents, subject of course to a laid out criteria. The State Sector to allow for the electronic equivalent of paper applications, approval, permits, licenses, procurements, receipts whilst also to implement the necessary processes and procedures in electronic form, with the relevant authority empowered with discretion to specify all such requirements to include types and forms of E-Signatures and methodologies involved.

该法案通过覆盖“其他任何法律”的必要性,涵盖了整个法律范围,尤其是通过建立“书面”,“和/或保留和/或“原始形式”以及“墨水签名”等要求。 电子通讯和纸质文件之间的功能等效性,当然要符合所制定的标准。 国营部门允许以电子形式处理纸质申请,批准,许可证,执照,采购,收据,同时还以电子形式实施必要的程序和手续,有关当局有权酌情规定所有此类要求,包括电子签名的类型和形式以及所涉及的方法。

The Act providing for ‘Electronic Contracts’ by addressing the fundamental requirements under the common law for a valid and enforceable contract, such as an “Offer and an ‘Acceptance’ evidencing a ‘meeting of minds’ central to a formal contract. It further addresses the determination of a party’s location in an electronic environment; the time and place of dispatch and receipt of electronic communications; the use of automated message systems for contract formation thereby establishing legal certainty for international commerce. It strengthens itself by providing expressly that an electronic contract formed with an Offer, Acceptance and electronic signature shall not be denied legal effect SOLELY on the ground of an electronic signature or if such contract was formed with an electronic communication on the ground of the electronic record. Further, the doctrine of ‘freedom of contract’ recognised with the ‘offeror’s right to prescribe the method of acceptance not being affected by the terms of the Act, with the possible lack of ‘intention’ validated by this provision allowing for a contracting between automated systems with no review by a natural person.


A ‘National Certification Authority’ (NCA), with inter-alia the power to determine the criteria for licensing of Certification Service Providers (CSP), issue licenses to CSP’s and authorise CSP’s to issue prescribed e-signatures in accordance with identified security procedures for use of bio metric data and other authentication technologies for verification purposes is provided for under the Act, with no regulatory restrictions on the use of an international certification service providers or electronic signatures. As of date Sri Lanka has as its NCA ‘Sri Lanka Computer Emergency Readiness Team’ (‘Sri Lanka CERT’). Sri Lanka CERT also has as one of its many functions the provision of responsive services in the form of incident handling and digital forensics whilst policing cyber security threats.

“国家认证机构”(NCA)有权确定证书服务提供者(CSP)的许可标准,向CSP颁发许可证并授权CSP根据已确定的安全程序颁发规定的电子签名。 该法案规定使用生物识别数据和其他身份验证技术进行验证,对于使用国际认证服务提供商或电子签名没有任何监管限制。 截至目前,斯里兰卡的NCA名为“斯里兰卡计算机应急准备小组”(“斯里兰卡CERT”)。 斯里兰卡CERT还具有以事件处理和数字取证为形式提供响应服务的多种功能之一,同时还能应对网络安全威胁

Sri Lanka being the first in South Asia to adopt an international standard for digital transactions, by having a National Digital Certificate Authority key ceremony to generate the Root certificate of the NCA, thereby facilitating more secure digital transactions, a necessity with increased use of the digital medium, not only in the domestic sphere but also cross-border transactions. Whilst enhancing international recognition to digital certificates issued by the NCA.

斯里兰卡是南亚第一个采用国际数字交易标准的国家,它通过举行国家数字证书颁发机构的关键仪式来生成NCA的根证书,从而促进了更安全的数字交易,这是增加使用数字交易的必要性媒介,不仅在国内,而且在跨境交易中也是如此。 同时增强NCA颁发的数字证书的国际认可度。

The Act, enabling the admissibility of any data message, electronic document or electronic records or other communications as evidence in legal proceedings with a presumption of truth in such communications and genuineness of an electronic signature unless the contrary is proven, thereby, allowing evidence in the electronic/digital’ form and providing for a specific regime for electronic evidence and expanding the framework of the law on evidence in Sri Lanka.


Sri Lanka is also in the process of enacting further legislation in the form of the ‘Cyber Security Act’ still in draft form in support of its efforts to continue its transformation into a digital society in keeping with current global trends.


It would be apt to conclude that Sri Lanka has in place a sound legal framework duly enabled to international standards to ‘seal the deal’ with the ‘Modern Contract’; having as a foundation the fundamental policy principles of technology neutrality, functional equivalence and party autonomy allowing for broader application.

可以得出这样的结论:斯里兰卡已经建立了一个健全的法律框架,该框架能够按国际标准正式启用以“现代合同”进行“密封交易”; 以技术中立,功能对等和政党自治的基本政策原则为基础,从而可以广泛应用。