Chief Justice Sansoni - Extraordinary man, brilliant Judge
Death anniversary fell on June 16, 2013:
The death anniversary of former Chief Justice Milliani Claude Sansoni
fell on June 16, 2013.As a Judge he will go down in legal history as one
of the most conscientious and illustrious Judges who graced the Supreme
He was born to a family with a strong legal background on November
18, 1904. His father who was a Justice of Peace and an unofficial
magistrate, was also the crown proctor of Negombo. His paternal
grandfather Milliani Henri was a proctor of the Supreme Court. Two
paternal uncles Waldo who went on to be a District Judge and Guy, who
enjoyed a leading practice at the Chilaw Bar, enhanced the Sansoni links
of an earlier generation with the legal profession of this island. These
links were further strengthened when Justice Sansoni himself married the
daughter of Aelian Owen Morgan Ondatje, an eminent proctor from Kegalle
and who was himself a JPUM and fathered a son who served as a senior
Parliamentary Counsel in Tasmania.
Criminal and civil work
Judstice Sansoni proceeded not only to add lustre to the family name,
but also to become a very distinguished member of his community and by
far the most illustrious member of the Sansoni family.
Justice Sansoni received his early education at Royal College and
entered the University College where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts
Degree as an external student of the London University in 1925.
Thereafter, he entered the Ceylon Law College and came first in the
Final Examination in 1928, winning the prizes for Civil
Procedure,Criminal Procedure and Evidence.
He then commenced his practice at the Bar in 1929 in Kandy. His
career at the Bar did not last long. He joined the minor Judiciary in
December 1937, at the very bottom of the ladder as acting Magistrate of
Dandegamuwa. He handled both the criminal and civil work with ease and
finesse. His work as a Judicial officer took him to several stations
spread over the length and breath of the island. In September 1953, he
was appointed as Commissioner of Assize. On May 10, 1954, he was
appointed as Supreme Court Judge. Indeed he was in every inch as upright
Judge. He set for himself the highest possible standards which he
unfailingly and unswervingly observed and maintained and which, he
expected other Judges too to follow.
As Chairman of the Judicial Service Commission he strove hard not
only to inspire and get the best out of the officers of the service, but
also to instill in them that they must unceasingly strive to be worthy
of the regard and respect which the bar and the public of this land
accorded to them.
Chief Justice Milliani Claude Sansoni
The judgements handed down by him will long endure as testimony to
his intellectual attainments, to his uncompromising independence, and to
his unfailing impartiality. He was indeed dignity and decorum
personified, the epitome of kindness, integrity and fair play, the
embodiment of all that is right and proper. He was soft spoken. Seldom,
if ever, was his voice raised in anger.
Freedom and dignity
Taciturn by nature, the study of Western classics made him appreciate
the value of the spoken word. There was never any tension in any Court
he presided over - be it the Magistrate's Court, the District Court or
the Supreme Court in the island and maintained the dignity of his Court
with ease, with firmness and tact which only few other judges have
matched, but never surpassed. He certainly was one of the finest
gentlemen ever to have adorned the Bench in scarlet and ermine.
He never overlooked the importance of the role that the Bar has to
play in the administration of Justice. He maintained his friendship with
the Bar throughout his career. When he was appointed Chief Justice, he
broke with tradition and chose to take his oaths in Kandy. The whole of
Kandy turned out that morning to greet the Chief Justice. He was greeted
by the members of the Bar, not only in Kandy, but also of Gampola and
He always considered the lawyers to be an indispensable part of the
Judicial machinery and emphasized that lawyers and Judges should "work
in harmony". Further, he was a devout Christian and drew great strength
from his faith. He believed in eternal values and freedom and dignity of
the human spirit from which belief came his deep commitment to human
rights and the rule of law.
Justice Sansoni laid down the robes of office on November 17, 1966
and faded away into a well-earned retirement, even Characteristically
declining a ceremonial farewell sitting of the Court. His well-earned
rest was, however, to be short-lived, for, there then began another
phase of his distinguished career. A period when he was to be called
upon, from time to time to undertake varied assignments, both of
specialised and national character on behalf of the state.
He was entrusted with the responsibility of being the first Chairman
of the Law Commission in which capacity he proposed several important
changes in the field of both the civil and the criminal law.
In 1977, in the wake of the communal violence which erupted in the
months of August and September 1977, the then government appointed him
to report on the incidents and to recommend measures for the
rehabilitation of the victims and ensure the prevention of the
recurrence of such incidents.
Furthermore, it is but opposite that Chief Justice Sansoni's hero was
the great lawyer the late H V Perera. Indeed, Chief Justice Sansoni was
an extraordinary man and an extraordinary Judge. He was an embodiment
and personification of kindness, integrity and fair play. He was the
model gentleman who like Justice Carvin could hurt no one's feeling much
less do an injustice. He would have said with that eminent Lord
Chancellor Lord Sankey, "A Judge's vision is rightly focused on the case
before him and his reference to Authority and principle is confined to
what is strictly necessary for deciding the issue and stating the reason
for the decision."
Chief Justice Sansoni breathed his last on June 16, 1989 and so ended
one of the most noble and illustrious Judicial career this fair island
of ours has ever known - a career which was always guided by the thought
that "the path of duty was the way to glory."