Justice Chitrasiri moved away from traditional moorings -
The Attorney General President’s Counsel Mohan Peiris addressing the
ceremonial sitting to welcome the new Court of Appeal Judge Justice K.
T. Chitrasiri said, “Sir Muthuswamy in his convocation address in 1882
in Madras University said, “The Court of Justice is a sacred temple. The
Judges presiding over it, though men, the humble instrument in the
interest of truth, must enter this holy edifies with holy thoughts and
with worthy actions to their faith and to their country.”
The Attorney General said Justice Chitrasiri will recollect that the
power you are called upon to exercise in the name of your sovereign is a
divine power. Justice Chitrasiri’s achievement in both academic and non
academic field has been exemplary.
Attorney General Mohan Peiris said:
Sir Gerard Brenan, the Chief Justice of Australia, suggested that,
accepting judicial office and remaining in it, partly depended to a
sense of community service.
It has been observed tat a Judge’s role is to serve the community in
the pivotal role of administering justice according to law. Your office
gives you that opportunity and that is a privilege. Your office requires
you to serve and that is a duty.
No doubt there were a number of other reasons personal and
professional for accepting appointment, but the Judge will not succeed
and will not find satisfaction in his or her duties, unless there is a
continual realisation of the importance of the community service that is
Freedom, Peace, Order and Good Government, are the essentials of the
society we treasure and depend in the ultimate analysis on the faithful
performance of the judicial duties. It is only when the community has
confidence in the integrity and capacity of the judiciary that the
community is governed by the rule of Law.
Knowing this, you must have a high conceit of the importance of your
office for when the work loses its novelty, when the case load resembles
something very burdensome, when the tyranny of reserved judgments palls,
the only permanently sustaining motivation to strive onwards is in the
realisation that what you are called on to do is essential to the
society in which you live.
Justice Chitrasiri, you have been identified as one who has possessed
the necessary judicial skills and qualities and therefore appointed to
be Judge and as part of an elite. I do not of course mean and elite
demanding social rank. I mean an elite because of your pivotal role with
your brothers in securing a peaceful and free society governed by the
rule of Law.
It might to well to remember that membership of this elite is no
passport to any easy lifestyle.
Your Lordship’s contribution to the development of International
Communication Technology Law is significant.
In 2000, you were responsible for the implementation of the
computerization of the day-to-day work of the District Court of Colombo
with the assistance of the Asia Foundation.
In 2004, Your Lordship actively participated in implementing the
reorganization of the Court system, case management and implementation
of automation conducted by the Judicial Reforms Project funded by the
In 2005 and 2006, you functioned as a consultant for the
restructuring of the Companies Registrar’s Office, more particularly in
the automation of the systems in the Office of the Registrar of
In 2008, Justice Chitrasiri facilitated a significant departure from
the entrenched practices and procedure of receiving evidence by
permitting the introduction of video conferencing to record evidence
from a location outside the country.
In the same year, you took even a boulder step in braking away from
the traditional moorings of technicality by permitting the reception of
short messages via mobile telephony as evidence.
“I would be remiss in my duties if I was not to make reference to the
noteworthy statistics with regard to the institution of cases and the
disposal of such cases since 2005 in the Commercial Court, as it is only
a reflection of the sheer dedication and hard work that has put in
during your tenure as a Judge of the Commercial Court.
The institution of cases in 2005 from 327 increased in 2008 to 683.
The disposal of such cases in 2005 from 279 rose to 412 in 2008.
It is a matter of proud record that since the creation of the
Commercial Court in 1996 till 2008 that 4561 cases have been filed
signalling a growing increment of the institutions every year of which
3583 cases were concluded, leaving only a 975 cases for final
The statistics as I said, simply demonstrates the confidence the
public has reposed in the procedures of the Commercial High Court, which
can be substantially attributed to the handwork and focus of both of the
Judges of the Commercial Courts and the untiring efforts of the Bar and
in particular the Civil Law practitioners of this Court.
The Commercial Court procedure have clearly demonstrated that if
there is a will to dispute speedy and quality justice, that there is
definitely a way.
May I take this opportunity to comment to Judges of the Court of
Appeal and to the Chief Justice that it might well be opportune to
consider the enhancement of the territorial jurisdiction of the
Commercial Court to other provinces or the creation of similar courts in
other provinces having regard to the rapid growth of commercial activity
in the provinces and consequential disputes which would attract the
jurisdiction of the present Commercial Court if not for its statutory
Justice Chitrasiri’s desire for judicial activism has been manifest
in the recent judgments of the Commercial Court, in the cases of
Gnanachanthiran Vs. the Commercial Bank, the Kewood Industries Insurance
Corporation case and the Orient Electric Systems (Pvt) Limited Vs. Seven
Venture (Pvt) Limited, in which one clearly observes an yearning to move
away from the traditional moorings of technicality.
In the search for what is practical and right for the society in
which we live, Your Lordship’s observations with regard to Section 120
of the Evidence Ordinance with regard to competent witnesses is an
indication of a searching mind that would be slow to follow precedent
for the sake of the doctrine at the expense of what is right.
Justice Chitrasiri’s observation in the Kewood Insurance case which
dealt with substantial questions of law pertaining to an insurance claim
was noteworthy as it examined the fundamentals and was centered round
the issues of the abandonment of a right by a estoppel, the validity of
terms on the ground of unreasonableness, the validity of conditions
which are impossible to fulfil and finally the validity of conditions
which lead to suppress the law of the land.
A hallmark judgment centered on the reasonableness and practicality
which society is crying out for.
We at the Bar, are confident that Justice Chitrasiri’s appointment to
this Court would renew and re-think the approaches and bring to bear an
order that would effectively deal with contemporary issues in current
times having regard to contemporary developments in the world at large,”
the Attorney General said.