|Wednesday, 12 March 2003|
Justice V. Sivasubramaniam remembered : he was an ornament to the Judiciary
by Chelvatamby Maniccavasagar
"A great judge must be a man with a spark of greatness. to start with, his job is the applied practice of wisdom and justice and these may not be borrowed from any of the calf-bound books, but must spring from the man himself". So said a former Attorney General and later Chief Justice of Sri Lanka.
Justice V. Sivasubramaniam who passed away 18 years ago at the age of 77 was a towering figure whose name will be writ large in the annals of Sri Lanka's judicial history. His profound scholarship, his brilliance as a Supreme Court judge and his significant service in the field of legal, judicial and above all his high moral character marked him out as one of the greatest Lankans of modern times.
Justice Sivasubramaniam was in every sense of the term a Himalayan personality, lofty, serene and unshakable, withstanding storms and blizzards with total and natural equanimity. At the same time, he was the source of many a regenerative river of reason which flowed over disuniform terrains.
In fact, the former Chief Justice Deshamanya S. Sharvananda at the ceremonial sitting of the court to make reference to Justice Sivasubramaniam's death said that, "the secret of his success as a good judge was that he was deeply religious. He practised what he preached and discharged his duties without fear or favour, guided by the philosophy and teachings of Bhagavad Gita. He was truly a great Hindu gentleman wishing well of others, harbouring no illwill and offensive to none.
He was a remarkable man who genuinely believed that the seat of justice was a place for the performance of a divine function, who strove to discharge his duties with humility, without any trace of arrogance. His face was always lit with smile, deep piety, integrity of character, independence of mind, devotion to duty and the courage of his conviction marked his life and earned the respect of all who came in contact with him.
Even the former Attorney General Mr. Sivapasupati once remarked that "it may be difficult to reach consensus as to the essential qualities that go to make an ideal judge, but it would be easier to reach consensus that late Justice Sivasubramaniam was the "ideal judge". During a period of about 30 years of his judicial career, he occupied almost every office in the judicial sphere. He displayed extraordinary patience and understanding as a judge.
C. G. Weeramantry, former Judge of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka and Judge of the International Court of Justice said, "that late Justice Sivasubramaniam was the symbol of the Principal Judicial virtues - impartiality, independence, scholarship, industry, courtesy, firmness, patience and above all a deep sense of Justice". Justice Sivasubramaniam was ever mindful of the highest standards prescribed for judges by both law and religion. He achieved excellence as a Judge of the Supreme Court on account of his courtesy towards the Counsel, firmness to his rulings and full possession of facts and always master of his Court.
Justice Sivasubramaniam was born on March 14, 1908 and had his early education at Jaffna Hindu College. He later joined Ananda College, Colombo.
He obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of London. He was called to the Bar on March 8, 1933 and practised at the Jaffna Bar where he soon built up a steady and lucrative practice by dint of his ability and industry. He joined the judicial service on February 27, 1941 and functioned as Magistrate, District Judge, Additional Permanent Secretary, Acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice. In 1966, he was appointed to the Bench of the Supreme Court and he retired in April 1970.
Justice Sivasubramaniam was also a member of the Law Commission, the Board of Trustees of the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies, the Board of Management of the Dr. N. M. Perera Memorial Trust, the Executive Committee of the Alumni Association of Jaffna Hindu College and Chairman of the Advisory Council.
As a Judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Sivasubramaniam preserved the dignity of the Courts and the image of Justice. He always believed that Judges should discharge their duties without fear or favour, affection, ill will or bias. While on the Bench he lived up to the essence of the art of judging namely attentive and receptive ear, a mind open to conviction, a readiness to acknowledge error and a will resolved to do justice regardless of personal motives or prejudices.
Besides, he possessed in full measure the learning, the ability, the quickness of thought and the capacity for hardwork which enabled him to attain eminence as a lawyer and as a judge. Justice Sivasubramaniam was always of the opinion that a respected and an independent judiciary and a vigilant and strong Bar are indispensable to the administration of justice and for vindication of law.
As a judge, he always maintained tremendous courage and a high degree of judicial statesmanship. He steered the Courts with great dexterity through perils and floods and have left it with its stature no less high as when he was summoned to this high office.
Indeed, Justice Sivasubramaniam's polished manner and sartorial elegance, intellectual refinement and boldness of thought would assure him a permanent place in the legal thought and judicial literature of this country.
The genial disposition and warm hospitality of Mrs. Manonmany Sivasubramaniam were the main attributes that enhanced his successful career as supreme court judge. Mrs. Sivasubramaniam was a wife who had no life apart from that of her husband. She found comfort in providing him with all the comforts and making him comfortable.
Produced by Lake House