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References to four Supreme Court Judges

by Sarath Malalasekera  - Daily News - Mon Mar 17 2003

The Supreme Court on Friday held a special sitting to make references in honour of four Judges who had been members of the Court.

They are Justice Jaya Pathirana, who passed away on May 25, 2000, Justice Tissa Dias Bandaranayake, who passed away on May 30, 2001, Justice Percy Colin Thome', who passed away on September 12, 2001 and Justice Christie Alles, who passed away on January 1, 2003.

Associated on the Bench with Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva PC on the occasion were Justices Mark Fernando PC, Dr. Ms. Shiranee Bandaranayake, D.P.S. Gunasekera, Hector S. Yapa, Asoka de Silva, T.B. Weerasuriya and Nihal Jayasinghe.

The President of the Court of Appeal and the other Judges of the Court of Appeal, Colombo High Court Judges, Judges of the Colombo District Court, Colombo Chief Magistrate and Colombo Additional Magistrates were accommodated on the dais. Registrar of the Supreme Court Bandula Atapattu and Ms. Neelambikai Motilal Nehru officiated.

Former Judges of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and the family members and close relatives of the four late Judges were also present.

The Attorney General K.C. Kamalasabeyson PC and President of the Sri Lanka Bar Association Ajantha Athukorale also spoke.

Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva PC in his reference said that:

"The late Justice Jaya Pathirana was a charismatic figure and played a vibrant role in the public affairs of this country, as an Advocate of the Supreme Court, a politician and finally as a judge of this court.

The acceptance and eminence he achieved in these distinct fields is a tribute to his capacity, keen intellect and perseverance. He, like several others in the era upto about 1950, who hailed from the Wayamba and North Central provinces, received his primary and secondary education in leading schools in Jaffna, what may be unthinkable in the context of subsequent events.

The late Justice Pathirana was a distinguished old boy of St. Patrick's College, Jaffna where in the Matriculation Form, he won prizes in General Proficiency, Latin, English and History. Indeed, a rare combination, which would have held him in good stead in handing down some landmark judgements which he wrote covering different subjects.

Justice Pathirana came on the Bench well prepared and was quick in grasping a point and equally quick to see through an untenable argument. He served as a judge of this court for six years from 1972-78. He ceased to be a member of this court due to Article 163 of the present constitution which provided that Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts (there being no Court of Appeal at that time) ceased to hold office on the commencement of the Constitution. A provision that can be characterized as the worst blot on the independence of the judiciary of this country. It is interesting to note that the very next Article 164, provided for continuance in service on the same terms and conditions to members of the minor judiciary, public servants, employees of local authorities and public corporations. Sadly, Justice Pathirana for no fault in his judicial career was not re-appointed unlike some of his colleagues.

After being left in the cold in this manner, he undertook a few international assignments and was later struck by illness which caused him to be incapacitated for many years.

The Chief Justice said that "late Justice George Randolph Tissa Dias Bandaranayake, as his name indicates, hails from the old aristocracy and held his head high in every sense. He was a distinguished old boy of St. Thomas' College, where he excelled in sports and studies. In cricket he made a mark as a bowler and a batsman. A prowess, he carried through to the Attorney General's Department where he got together a formidable cricket team drawing on the talent not only of legal officers but also of the minor staff. He successfully led the team to the top table in the Public Service Tournaments.

Justice Bandranayake was called to the Bar from Lincoln's Inn in 1958 and was enroled as an Advocate in the same year. In September 1961 he was appointed as Crown Counsel in the Attorney General's Department where he did mainly criminal work. He prosecuted in almost all Assize Circuits in the country. He was promoted as Senior State Counsel in 1974 and was appointed as a Judge of the High Court in 1976. He presided at a Trial-at_bar on a triple murder indictment, a rare case of drug induced death. The conviction based on his carefully structured judgement was upheld by the Appellate Court.

He was appointed a Judge of the Court of Appeal in 1984 and President of that court in February 1988. Within a brief period he was appointed as a judge of this court and functioned as Acting Chief Justice on several occasions till his retirement in 1996. He was appointed as Ambassador for Indonesia in may 1998 and served in that capacity till his death in May 2001.

The Chief Justice said the late Justice Percy Colin Thome' was another member of the Attorney General's Department who joined the judiciary.

He belonged to a respectable family of the Burgher community in Sri Lanka and was the last legal luminary of that community to adorn the Bench of this country.

He lived in Galle and had his early education at Richmond College. After graduating from the University of Ceylon, he studied at Downing College, Cambridge and was called to the Bar from Gray's Inn. He was enroled as an Advocate of the Supreme Court of Ceylon in 1951 and was appointed as Crown Counsel in the Attorney General's Department in 1952. He too worked mainly in the criminal side and was appointed as the most Senior Judge of the newly established High Court in 1974. He was appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court in 1976. Justice Colin Thome' was also a victim of Article 163 of the Constitution, to which reference has been made and lost his seat in the Supreme Court in 1978 but was appointed to the Court of Appeal. Thereafter he rose once again to be a judge of this court.

His travails did not end with that. Together with two of his colleagues late Justice Wimalaratne and late Justice Vythialingam, he had to face a motion of impeachment before Parliament. Undaunted, he defended himself in the proceedings before the Select Committee and was finally exonerated. He retired as judge of this court on 12.05.1987. Justice Colin Thome' devoted much of his spare time to drama and the theatre. He excelled on stage as an actor. he produced and directed several plays in English and attracted talented legal personnel to the stage. He entertained mature audiences with his perfect diction and superb acting.

The Chief Justice said Justice Anthony Christopher Augustus Alles was also a member of the Attorney General's Department who joined the Bench of this court. He too received his early education in Galle at St. Aloysius College.

He entered University College in Colombo. Due to ill-health he had to abandon studies at that institution and subsequently he entered St. John's College, Cambridge and moved to the Ceylon Law College, where he passed the Advocates Examination obtaining 1st Class Honours. He joined the Attorney General's Department as a Crown Counsel in 1944 and rose to the position of Solicitor General in 1962. Whilst holding the office of Solicitor General he was appointed to the Bench of this Court in 1964. He functioned full 10 years as a judge of this court. He acted as Chief Justice on several occasions.

Justice Alles whilst in the Attorney General's Department served as the foremost prosecutor and handled several sensational cases including the Adline Witharane, White House, Weerawila and Pooneryn murder cases. He gained mastery over the Criminal Law, Procedure and Evidence. He presided over the Assizes in several sessions throughout the country. The firmness with which he dealt with matters that came before him earned him the reputation that the rate of crime reduced considerably in the areas in which he presided over circuits. Justice Alles took time to write several books on sensational cases in which he prosecuted and also the cases in which he tried as a judge. He has thereby enriched the literature of this country, giving an opportunity to our readers to have a glimpse of what goes on in the process of investigation, detention and prosecution of serious crime. He was in every sense a model of rectitude and an example to the members of the Attorney General's Department, being the institution he served faithfully for many years.

The Chief Justice said "Mr. Attorney and Mr. Atukorale, it is with a tinge of sadness that I rekindle the memories of distinguished persons with whom I have had the privilege of working and before whom I have had the honour of appearing. Their multifaceted lives had aspects which characterise grandeur and their demise may in certain respects mark the passing of an era. They have contributed fully to enrich the 200-year tradition of this court, of dispensing justice according to law, without fear or favour".

"I would direct the Registrar of this court to transmit a copy of the proceedings to the families of the late Judges", the Chief Justice said.