Venerate the deserving, Justice Soza
When I walk down the memory lane, I remember the day I met Justice
Soza, when I took my oath as a Judicial Officer. I was with five of my
colleagues and after taking our oaths we went to the Judges Institute
where we had the privilege of meeting this legal luminary.
Before I saw his physical stature his reputation had reached my ears.
He put us at ease by asking some questions in a friendly manner.
Justice Soza was educated at Maristella College Negombo. In 1943 he
obtained the Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of London and
he started his illustrious career as a teacher. In 1951 he obtained the
Bachelor of Law's Degree from the University of London. Then he entered
the Law College and passed as an Advocate.
He was called to the Bar on the April 28, 1948, after getting his
initial training under N. K Choksy, KC and he practised for some time in
the original civil and Criminal Courts of Negombo and in Colombo.
Justice Soza embarked upon his distinguished career on the bench on
March 01, 1957. He functioned as a Judge in the capacity of Magistrate,
District Judge and a High Court Judge. Thereafter he was appointed as a
Judge of the Court of Appeal and on January 26, 1982 he was elevated to
the Supreme Court. When he was functioning as a Judge of the Supreme
Court, he had pronounced a number of judgments, which are considered
landmarks in the development of the law. Justice Soza had a special
fancy for Latin maxims which he often quoted in his judgments.
After his retirement from the Supreme Court bench, he was appointed
as the Director of the Sri Lanka Judges Institute on May 2, 1984. He
contributed his vast knowledge and experience for the training of Judges
who benefited by their exposure to his scholarship and versatility.
There were many Judges who had the privilege and happy destiny to
come under his benign influence and get trained as Judges. It is
relevant to mention here that we learnt not only how to deal with the
intricacies of law but also with the finer points of gentlemanliness.
I recall how Justice Soza enlightened us convincingly on Partition
Law by citing “Somawathie vs Madawala, a landmark judgment by His
When it came to the interim injunctions, Justice Soza introduced the
guidelines for the granting of an interim injunction in the case of
Felix Dias Bandaranayake vs The State Film Corporation.
I cannot resist the temptation to mention the pains taken by Justice
Soza to imbibe in us the longest chapter in the Civil Procedure Code. We
appreciate the way he tolerated us and very patiently, repeated the
procedures on execution of decrees and drove the relevant points
It reminds me the way Justice Soza explained and analyzed another
landmark Judgment of his, Leechman and Company vs Rangalla Consolidated
Limited, which refers to garnishee orders.
It is no exaggeration to say that, talking to him is an education
itself and he was a living embodiment of gentleman par excellence.
The Buddha in His wisdom said that a real Buddhist would not hurt the
feelings of others nor would he conduct himself in a manner to provoke
his associates. In my assessment Justice Soza was a fine exponent of
While functioning as the Director of the Judges Institute, Justice
Soza edited the first publication of the Judges Journal in 1991, which
was a great contribution to our legal literature, so much so that no
less a person than Lord Denning paid a handsome tribute to him in that
Unfortunately the Judges Journal ceased to be published, in spite of
its immense value. Nevertheless the Judges Journal has not diminished as
borne out by the fact that the Judges as well as the Lawyers make use of
it even at present. By a quirk of destiny when I became the Secretary of
the Judicial Service Commission, I got the opportunity to revive the
Judges Journal after 19 years with the permission of the Judicial
It is in the fitness of things to honour this great Luminary in
appreciation of his yeomen service to the Judiciary of this country.
Even belatedly the Judicial Service Commission together with the
Judicial Service Association had made arrangements to felicitate Justice
Soza and the revival of the felicitation issue of the Judges Journal was
respectfully dedicated to Honourable Justice Soza on that occasion.
He was a virtual Patron Saint of the Judiciary to whom we looked up
for guidance. Even after his retirement from the directorship of the
Judges Institute, Justice Soza continued to assist the judges to untie
the legal knots and was available to unravel them over the phone.
Justice Soza's immense service to the legal profession cannot be
denied and still less obscured. Over the years Justice Soza has been the
virtual authority on the decorum, dignity and the propriety of the
conduct of the fraternity of Judges.
With his demise a pall of gloom has descended upon the legal domain.
By extension, it is said that great Judges leave their foot prints on
the sands of time for the others to follow them. That is the invaluable
legacy Justice Soza has left for the present generation of the legal
We have to scan the horizon asking ourselves the question whence can
we see one like you again.
A large number of the legal profession assembled to pay the last
respects to this most eminent legal personage.
Although his legal brains have ground to a halt the sparkle of it
would remain undiminished.