Justice M T Akbar’s 69th death anniversary:
A Judge who was a man of God
The 69th death anniversary of Justice M T Akbar (KC) was observed on
last Sunday. In fact, Justice Akbar was one of the most distinguished
sons of the Malay Community. He was a descendent of a powerful and
influential Malay family whose members held commission in the famous
Ceylon Rifle Regiment.
Justice Akbar received his early education at Royal College where his
career was not only brilliant, but exceptional. In the college he won
the Turnour Prize, the de Soysa Science prize, the English essay prize
and also won the government university scholarship. Thereafter, he
proceeded to Cambridge and his record at Cambridge was splendid. He
returned to Ceylon as a Barrister-at-law (Gray's Inn) with a BA, LLB
(Can tab) behind his name. He was even a qualified engineer.
After practising as an Advocate, he joined the Attorney Generals
Department as a Crown Counsel on June 9, 1909. During 1918 to 1919, he
was an Acting Additional District Judge, Colombo on several occasions.
From 1920-1921, he was an acting Solicitor General and was appointed as
Solicitor General on October 6, 1924 and became Attorney General on
November 1928 and thereafter he was appointed as Supreme Court Judge.
He was the first Muslim to adorn the Supreme Court Bench and was also
the first Muslim to he raised to the status of ‘King's Counsel’ (KC).
Justice Akbar was the respect of all sections of the people and his
first love was his religion. Even as a Judge, he used to retire to his
Chambers for his mid-day prayers. He strictly adhered to the teachings
of Islam and at all times manifested the lofty concepts of Islamic
Outstanding for his high academic attainments and supreme
professional skill Justice Akbar also made an extensive study of Islam
and propagated the religion in every possible manner. Even before he
passed a death sentence on a man who was found guilty in a murder case,
he used to retire to his Chambers and pray to Allah to forgive him and
say that he had no right to take anyone's life. This shows his
compassion, human and humane qualities and his sympathetic feeling
towards all human beings. That was the reason, he was held in high
esteem by the people of all communities and they called him ‘A Judge who
was a man of God'. Further, a salient characteristic in him was that
throughout his life he shunned pompousness and frivolities.
Justice Akbar served with Chief Justice Abrahams and Justice Koch in
the contempt of court case where the then Editor of the Daily News was
charged for an editorial he had written ‘Justice on Holiday'. The Editor
was sentenced to a fine of Rs 1,000 and imprisonment till the rising of
court. Furthermore, no case created so much interest in the public as
the Duff House Case. It was a case in which one Stephen Seneviratne, a
Barrister-at-law and an advocate was charged with having murdered his
wife on October 15, 1933. After a trial of nearly one month before
Justice Akbar and the Jury, the accused was convicted of murder on June
14, 1934, but this sentence was later commuted to imprisonment for life.
In the latter part of his career as a Supreme Court Judge, he was
called upon to sit in judgement in some of the biggest criminal cases of
that time. He sat in judgement in this case where a well-known proctor
from Gampola was involved and which resulted in the proctor's
Justice Akbar (KC) retired serving as Supreme Court Judge, who in
fact rose to become the Chief Justice of the Supreme of Ceylon. But, it
was in the character of him to tender his resignation from the high
office he held when a judgement of his was turned down in the Lord of
Privy Council in England – then the highest appellate court of the
Colonial Raj. He was appointed as a nominated member of the Colombo
Municipal Council in May 1937. Besides, he served on many commissions
and committees dealing with public projects of importance. He was a
member of the Board of Education, Chairman of the Committee on the site
for the proposed university and chairman of the committee on Muslim
marriages. The Akbar Hall at the University of Peradeniya and a street
in Colombo ‘Justice Akbar Mawatha’ are of course constant reminders of
this great Sri Lankan Muslim.
Indeed, Justice Akbar was a scholar, Educationalist, Lawyer, Jurist,
Member of the Legislative Council, Lecturer in Law who produced
generations of lawyers, Judges, workers in the course of social reforms
and religions devotees and also made outstanding contributions towards
the development of Muslim Law in this country.