S Nadesanís 25th death anniversary:
The 25th death anniversary of S Nadesan (Q.C), a front rank lawyer, a
crusader for human rights, a senator and an aggressive champion of
social justice falls today, December 21, 2012.
Nadesan (Q.C) graced the Bar for 55 years and lived upto his 83rd
year. In fact, he stood up for certain principles, regardless of
consequences. He had one of the most incisive and logical minds and for
counsel of his eminence there was no distinction between civil, criminal
or constitutional matters. He handled all of them with equal facility
and left his indelible impression in all branches of the law.
Lord McMillan once said that the duty of the advocate is five fold.
In the discharge of his office the advocate has a duty to his client, a
duty to his opponent, a duty to the court, a duty to himself and a duty
to the State. To maintain a perfect poise amidst these various and
sometimes conflicting claims is no easy feat. However Nadesan performed
this feat with ease. He would graciously concede matters of fact or law,
even if they were unfavourable to his case.
Fighter against corruption
Further, future generations will remember him not merely for his
triumphs at the Bar, but for the dynamic and valiant efforts he made
throughout his long and eventful career, to preserve through the
judicial process, the cherished values of any democratic society.
Indeed, he was a champion of Democracy. In a country whose constitution
proclaims that it is a Democratic Republic and many have to protect that
they cherish democratic ideals. They do so as mere slogans to be
forgotten as quickly as they are uttered. But, Nadesan in his sagacity
knew that those cherished ideals were indispensable for the progress of
a nation, that there could be no progress without a sense of national
dignity and national dignity comes only when each and every citizen
knows that each and every other citizen is assured of fair play.
It is this pre-occupation with fair play which made Nadesan such a
relentless fighter against arbitration and corruption. Yet, Nadesan was
not dogmatic in any matter. He could always be persuaded to change his
point of view. A classic instance was when Nadesan as a ĎSenatorí
supported the infliction of the death penalty. Later he acknowledged the
total irrationality of the death penalty and became a member of the
committee for the arbitration of the death penalty.
Nadesan passed away from our midst on December 21, 1987, but his
services were much in demand in the several courts and tribunals in the
island. It could be said of several that they specialized and made their
mark in the civil or criminal side or in the original or appellate court
or in some commercial subject or other. But, it can be said of only
Nadesan that he was an all-rounder, quite at home whether it be in the
privy council, Supreme Court, Election Court, the Income Tax Board of
Review, or Industrial Arbitrator or Parliamentary Committee.
In 1943, during the height of the second world war when Ceylon was a
Crown Colony Nadesan appeared in the Colombo Assize Court for Mr Aziz,
who faced a charge of sedition and secured an acquittal in spite of a
Fundamental principles of law
The secret of Nadesanís success as a lawyer was his keen sense of
relevancy, his grasp of fundamental principles of law and his uncanny
perception of the weak points in his opponentís case. He had the flair
for detecting the flaws in his opponentís case and reasoning. He never
bullied witnesses, but would laugh with an adverse witness and laugh out
the opposite partyís case.
Nadesan ably expounded the cause of the freedom of the press when he
challenged the Press Council Bill before the Constitutional Court in
1974. The 1978 Constitution gave the opportunity to Nadesan to expatiate
on fundamental rights, when such rights were made justiciable before the
Supreme Court. He was a passionate advocate of fundamental rights. His
exposition of fundamental rights gave a new dimension to the concept of
fundamental rights. He was dedicated to the championship of human
Furthermore, his sober, enlightened and critical contribution to the
Senate debates indicated the high regards in which he was held by all
the political parties of the day.
Nadesan believed not only in a sound mind, but also in a sound body.
He was a versatile personality who made a lasting impact in the sphere
of law and politics. He was a class by himself. He can never be
imitated. He had left a void in the legal world and the civil rights
movement had lost one of its founder members and an ardent human rights
activist and the country had lost a pre-eminent lawyer with a social