Curiosities of Sri Lankan Bank Notes

I’ve always been intrigued by the phrase appearing on the top of all Sri Lankan notes

‘This note is legal tender for the payment of any amount’

Seriously? Any amount? Do you mean to say that I can drive out in a new Mercedes by handing over a 50 rupee bill to a guy at a Dimo branch? A Mercedes may cost an insanely large amount, but even an insanely large amount is less than any amount, right?

Sure it may seem trivial, and only willful misinterpretation of the phrase results in my interpretation – but legalese typically is locked down tight and does not lend itself to different interpretations. Because there is a group of people who are trained and paid (again insanely large amounts) to perform willful misinterpretation. We call them lawyers. 😀

So you have to agree that I am not nitpicking when I point out that such phrasing in which even a laymen can find holes in is a little odd, considering the amount of care that would go into designing a bank note.

This first occurred to me quite some time ago. What rekindled my curiosity was seeing a photo of a rather old note on the interwebs.

Note that this one says ‘for any amount not exceeding 5 rupees’

Now why would they want to say that? What does the Government care if someone wanted to pay for their new Morris Minor using a truckload of 10 cent notes? More importantly, why did the Government change its position on the matter, resulting in a horridly ambiguous (at least to me) phrase being slapped onto every bank note of our Democratic Socialist Republic?

Also, coming back to the present, it is interesting to see that in the newer notes the equivalent phrase (again open to multiple interpretations) appears only in Sinhala. Almost all other wordings on the note are given in all three languages. So maybe this one is not that important. Maybe they just wanted to fill up some blank space on the note and couldn’t come up with a better idea.

So in summary, lots of questions. Not rhetorical questions, and not in the least sarcastic. I totally would love to learn the logic behind all this. If there is anyone out there who has a clue, please do enlighten me.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Curiosities of Sri Lankan Bank Notes

  1. R

    I think that line is there to give protection for the buyer/payer. For example when you buy something and pay with a 1000 rupee bill, the cashier cant ask ‘maru salli nadda?’ or refuse to provide goods or service. At least legally.

    • Hmm, never thought of it that way. Always thought that it was related to paying higher amounts than the note’s denomination. But that surely can be another reason for the phrase.

  2. Sorry Dude. I can’t enlighten you on that ‘cos I’m not into economics.
    Anyway awesome post.
    And why are you posting under Uncategorized? Have some categories.
    And I added you to my bloglist in HeyDude.
    You can go and check

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