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‘Justice requires flexibility of mind and intellectual honesty’

The Bench and the Bar welcomed new Supreme Court Judge Justice Chandra Ekanayake at a ceremonial sitting held at the Superior Court Complex recently.

Associated on the Bench with Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva PC, were Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake, Justice Asoka de Silva, Justice Nimal Gamini Amaratunga, Justice Shiranee Tillakawardena, Justice Andrew M. Somawansa, Justice Saleem Marsoof PC, Justice Jagath Balapatabendi, Justice K. Sripavan and Justice Chandra Ekanayake.

Court of Appeal Judges, Commercial High Court Judges, High Court Judges, Colombo District Judge, Additional District Judges, Colombo Chief Magistrate and Colombo Additional Magistrates were at dais.

President’s Counsel, Senior and Junior members of the Official and Unofficial Bar and relatives of Justice Chandra Ekanayake were among the distinguish gathering. “The duty that has to be discharged by Judges is undoubtedly an onerous one. “I am also mindful of the fact that these ceremonial sittings serve as an eternal reminder of the high responsibilities and onerous duties cast upon judges. Society expects a great deal from us, so much so everyone looks upon us as the guardians of liberty,” said Justice Chandra Ekanayake at the ceremonial sitting held to welcome her.

Justice Ekanayake quoting former Chief Justice Sir Sydney Abrahams at his ceremonial sitting held on July 3, 1936 stated “The surest foundation of civilisation is a firm, impartial and speedy administration of justice and it is quite impossible that ideal can ever be obtained unless you have judges who are strong, courageous and impartial in the administration of law and a Bar equally strong and courageous to support them in that task.”

Justice Ekanayake recalled that when she walked up Hulftsdorp Hill in 1970 to gain admission to Law College, the furthest from her mind was that 38 years later she would adorn a seat in the Apex Court of this country. “When I go down memory lanes, I remember with gratitude the experience and invaluable advice I received in the Hulftsdorp Law Library as well as in the court rooms as an apprentice and as a junior Lawyer from my colleagues, who are now eminent men in the field of law and leaders of the legal fraternity.

The courtesies that the Hulftsdorp Bar extended to me as a junior counsel still lingers in my memory and I have always endeavoured to reciprocate them, and uphold the great traditions that always existed between the Bar and the Bench.

“While making no claims that I come from a family with a legal heritage, I take pride in the fact that I hail from Matara which has produced many legal giants in the past. Indeed I am delighted to say that I have always received in abundance the goodwill and wholehearted co-operation of the Bar in the discharge of my duties.

I need hardly stress here that it is a very difficult and arduous journey for one who had joined at the bottom rung of the judicial ladder to reach the Apex Court. So I have every reasons to be happy that I was fortunate to reach this position in our judicial hierarchy.”

“While I am prepared to learn from my colleagues on this Bench and from the esteemed members of the Bar I can with every confidence state that I’ll continue to hold the scales of justice fairly and evenly. I am quite conscious of the fact that a fair hearing must always be afforded to all. Justice also requires flexibility of the mind and intellectual honesty. The lesson to be learnt is that it is the law that is supreme and not the Judge who interprets it.”

“I have fond memories of the period I served as a judicial officer and the assistance offered both by senior judicial officers and my contemporaries to make a smooth transition from the bar to the Bench.

The duties of a Judge I found more onerous than that of counsel because a judge is always distant and detached from the background to the events unlike counsel. I would always appreciate the Herculean task performed by our Judges. It is justice that should prevail and not mere technicalities.”

The Supreme Court acts with independence and impartiality and safeguards the sovereignty of the people, which is paramount under the Constitution. We as the guardians of the Constitution are obliged to do so.

I take this opportunity to thank Mrs. Jayasekera, the Registrar of the Court of Appeal and Mr. Pinnaduwa, the Deputy Registrar, who made my task easy in regard to administration. I also wish to thank the members of the staff for extending their fullest corporation to me.”

Before I conclude, let me mention just a few to whom I owe a deep debt of gratitude. I remember my late father with great love and affection and due to whose persuasion I took to law. My mother aged 83 is present here today, despite her poor state of health.

I would be failing in my duty if I don’t extend a special word of thanks to my dear mother who helped and guided me in every manner to achieve my father’s ambition, despite being burdened with the task of taking care of my father who was then confined to bed.

I wish her good health, happiness and long life. It is with deep gratitude I remember the late B. J. Fernando, PC in whose chambers I served my apprenticeship and worked as a junior until I took up judicial office.

My respect goes to the teachers who guided me in school with much dedication. If not for their efforts I would never be what I am today.”

I’m thankful to my husband Tissa, who has always been a source of strength to me and my children Charuka, Narmadha and Thavindra, for providing me with the environment and opportunity to continue with my career on the Bench and for providing me love and assistance at all times. My late father-in-Law. Vincent Ekanayake was himself a practising lawyer in Hulftsdorp and I remember him with much affection.

There is yet another person to whom I owe a very special word of thanks. That is Suranganie Marapana, then a young lawyer who persuaded my father to convince me to embark upon a legal career, despite my reluctance at that time.”

 

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