New Court of Appeal President welcomed
The Bench and the Bar welcomed new Court of Appeal President Justice
Sathya Hettige PC at a ceremonial sitting held at the Superior Court
Complex yesterday morning.
Associated on the Bench with the new Court of Appeal President,
Justice Sathya Hettige, were Justice Sarath de Abrew, Justice, S. I.
Imam, Justice Sri Skandarajah, Justice W. L. Ranjith Silva, Justice
Sisira de Abrew, Justice Eric Basnayake, Justice Rohini Marasinghe,
Justice Anil Gooneratne, Justice A. W. A. Salam and Justice Upali
New Court of Appeal President, Justice Sathya Hettige PC
with the other Judges of the Court of Appeal.
“The law, is an ark I have served for three decades. And never has
the law become such a part of people’s daily lives than in recent times.
Faith in the system. it seems, has been restored. Human beings unlike
other beings, have “free choice” and this enables them to sometimes act
in their self interest. Hence, the need for the law, to guide those who
work for the collective good of society and act as a deterrent against
those who work against it.
The law then, is a social necessity, which aims to work for the
collective good of all by resorting to a sense of agreed reason and
accepted norms. Thus we see the development of concepts of “due
process,” “natural justice,” “fair conduct,” “fair competition” etc
which principles have now become embedded in our legal system, Justice
Sathya Hettige said.
Quoting Lord Chancellor Sankey, Justice Hettige said, “Amidst the
cross currants and shifting sands of public life, the law is like a
great ark upon which a man may set his foot and be safe.”
Justice Hettige said: And What is justice? It carries with it
definitions from the ages, from Plato to Rawls and means many things to
many people and remains a timeless aspiration.
I quote from Justice C. G. Weeramantry’s book “The Law in Crisis” -
“high among men’s finer traits is their love of justice, through
history’s tornados and fitful gusts its flame has kept alive. Sometimes
sputtering and flickering, sometimes waxing, sometimes waning, it has
always been a reminder that men may look for a determination of their
rights, to a principle mightier than might alone”.
The Lord Buddha himself spoke of a sense of justice within a
philosophy of non-violence and compassion. The noble eight-fold path or
the Arya Ashtangika Margaya advocates rightness in all human conduct.
“Right vision, right thought, right speech, right action, right
livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration”. If
rulers and subjects alike can conduct themselves with “rightness” we may
achieve a sense of justice in our lives.
It is only correct that I begin by extending my deepest gratitude to
the mentors and State counsel of the Attorney General’s Department,
which prestigious institution I served for 30 years.
The training and experience obtained at the Attorney General’s
Department will no doubt greatly assist me in discharging my duties in
the adjudicative process.
“We are able to sustain order in society only if there is an arm
which can uphold the law and keep men within its identified boundaries
because men are and will be inclined to test these boundaries.
It must be borne in mind that judges themselves are of the same
nature and therefore great effort must be taken to be objective in
meting out the justice of the justices. I will be impartial and
objective in deciding the outcome of every case I hear before me and I
am confident that I can draw upon the expertise of the learned counsel
and be immensely benefited in carrying out my task.
“Justice has to be met in all fairness having regard to the merits of
a case. In that light, the independence of the judiciary is a guaranteed
constitutional right. Indeed it is an imperative principle in any
democratic society that the judiciary be free from executive
interference and control. I quote “to be impartial as a judge is to hold
the scales even and to adjudicate without fear nor favour in order to do
The people must have confidence in the institutions that implement
the law. It is only whilst such confidence continues to hold sway, can
we expect order in society and a belief in the effectiveness of the
legal system. It is noteworthy that the Lord Buddha advocated that one
must abstain from the “Four Wrong Paths”, namely desire (chanda), malice
(dvesha), ignorance (maha) and fear (bhaya).
I believe if one can free oneself from these wrong paths, one can be
content that justice has been done. Indeed it is a well grounded
principle in law that “justice must not only be done but also be seen to
It need not be emphasised that judges in their role of judgeship have
an unconditional duty to uphold the constitutional guarantees and
fundamental rights of the people. This august position requires us to
listen intently, judge fairly and as expeditiously as possible.
We, judges and lawyers alike, must conduct ourselves in a manner
where “law’s delays” are unheard of. Whilst it is a pragmatic truth,
that at times there are more grievances than that can be handled, this
by itself cannot be a reason for delays in general.
Justice must be dispensed with as expeditiously as possible, where it
is so possible. Our concern must always be for the litigant. This
process therefore also requires a balancing act of sorts. Justice must
never be too hurried either. It all depends on the circumstances of the
case. We would not want the litigant to feel doubly aggrieved because of