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Three generations of Choksys at the Bar

by Sarath Malalasekera - DN Fri Mar 22 2002

Today - March 22 is a red letter day for President's Counsel K. N. Choksy as he presents the maiden Budget of the UNF Government as the new Finance Minister of the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's Cabinet of Sri Lanka.

It will also be a day of celebration for the Choksy clan which has the unique distinction of producing three generations of lawyers to practise at the one and same venue. Namely late Queen's Counsel N.K. Choksy, present President's Counsel, Finance Minister K. N. Choksy and Attorney-at-Law V. N. Choksy.

The Choksy family is now part and parcel of Sri Lanka being Citizens here for more than a century.

Late Queen's Counsel Choksy joined the legal profession in 1917 as a proctor and six years later qualified and enroled himself as an Advocate. He commanded one of the largest practices in commercial work in the original courts of Colombo. Later he moved to the Appeal Court and was equally successful there.

Late Mr. Choksy took silk in 1947. In 1951 Queen's Counsel Choksy acted as Puisne Judge.

In 1955 late Mr. Choksy was appointed chairman of the Local Government Commission of Inquiry. 'The Choksy report' later became a hand-book often quoted by politicians advocating more powers and facilities to Local Government bodies.

Late Mr. Choksy QC, served as the Chairman of the Land Acquisition Board of review for ten years from 1950 and as president of the Income Tax Payers' Association of Ceylon from 1948 to 1950.

He was the first member of the Parsee Community in Ceylon to become an Advocate and a Queen's Counsel.

He served as a Chairman of Hentley Garments Limited and was a director of the Ceylon Glass Factory.

Late Mr. Choksy was a member of the panel which discussed the pertinent question "Should Ceylon Industrialise' over CBC's seminar on National reawakening.

"Queen Counsel Choksy possessed the attributes of a genius. He never signed an opinion, commenced the examination of a witness, or made a submission to a Judge, without having completed an exhaustive study of all relevant matters," Former Chief Justice H.N.G. Fernando said at a reference made to late Queen's Counsel Choksy, on February 8, 1973.

The then Attorney-General Victor Tennakoon speaking at the reference said " late Mr. Choksy was one among a group of three or four advocates, small in physique, but big in heart who dominated the legal profession in the forties and fifties. "

The then Acting Attorney General R.S. Wanasundera at the unveiling ceremony of the late Queen's Counsel Choksy's portrait on November 10, 1973 said " that the late Mr. Choksy led a full life and served the State and the community. We hope his son (President's Counsel K.N. Choksy) who is now with us, following in the steps of his illustrious father will keep up the Choksy name and the Choksy tradition.

The New Finance Minister Kairshasp Nariman (K.N.) Choksy was called to the Sri Lankan Bar in 1958 and to the U.K. Bar (Gray's Inn) in 1973. He appeared in the High Court of London, in a claim for damages against the London Times.

Minister Choksy a son of late Queen's Counsel N.K. Choksy, who was a leading lawyer in early fifties and later sixties had a lucrative practice. New Finance Minister was appointed President's Counsel (equivalent of Queen's Counsel) in 1981. He was a member of the Bar Council of Sri Lanka from 1978 to 1987 and held the Chairmanship post of the Law Committee of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka from 1980 to 1982.

He has served as a Counsel for several foreign embassies in Sri Lanka and also represented Sri Lanka Government as Senior Counsel in Arbitration Proceedings instituted by British interests regarding compensation payable upon nationalisation of the tea plantation and manufacturing industry in Sri Lanka.

He was a member of the Sri Lanka Delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in 1986 and a member of Parliament since 1989. (nominated to Parliament to occupy a seat reserved for professionals and technocrats.)

The new Finance Minister was the Minister of Constitutional and State Affairs in the Cabinet of Sri Lanka from May 1993 to August 1994.

Mr. Vishtasp K. Choksy is the third generation lawyer in the Choksy family. He is a son of Finance Minister K.N. Choksy and Mrs. Choksy.

Vishtasp studied at the S. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia and later entered the Sri Lanka Law College. He was called to the Bar in Sri Lanka in 1993 and has been in practice for the last nine years.

Choksy Junior mainly practises on the Civil side in the District Court and Superior Courts. Occasionally he appears in the original Courts for important cases. Sirini, wife of Vishtasp is also an Attorney-at-Law who was attached to the Attorney General's Department.

After eight years service in the Attorney General's Department Sirini left the Department mainly to look after their first baby.

(The writer had been employed at the Colombo Law Library in 1960s when late Mr. Choksy was practising in Superior Courts at Hultfsdorp. There were several legal luminaries then who were contemporaries of Queens Counsel Choksy. Among them to name a few were H. V. Perera, QC, H. W. Jayewardene, QC, N. E. Weerasuriya, QC, Eric B. Wikramanayake, QC, E. Guy Wikramanayake, QC, Dr. Colvin R. de Silva, S. J. V. Chelvanayagam, QC, S. Nadesan, QC, G. G. Ponnambalam, QC, G. T. Samarawickrema, George E. Chitty, QC, C. Thaigalingam, QC, C. Ranganathan, QC, Sam J. Kadirgamar, C. S. Bar Kumarkulasingham Brothers and H. Wanigatunga.)