"A great judge must be a man with a spark of greatness to start with, his job is the applied practice of wisdom and justice and these may not be borrowed from any of the calf bound books, but must spring from the man himself." So said a former Attorney General and later Chief Justice of Sri Lanka.
Justice V. Sivasubramaniam who passed away 18 years ago at the age of 77 was a towering figure whose name will be written large in the annals of Sri Lankas judicial history. His profound scholarship, his brilliant record as a Supreme Court Judge and his significant service in the field of legal, judicial and above all his high moral character marked him out as one of the greatest Lankans of modern times.
Justice Sivasubramaniam was in every sense of the term a Himalayan personality, lofty, serene and unshakable. He was capable of withstanding storms and blizzards with total and natural equanimity. At the same time he was the source of many a regenerative rivers of reason which flowed over disuniform terrains.
The former Chief Justice and highly respected personality of the calibre of Deshamanya S. Sharvananda at the ceremonial sitting of the Court to make reference to Justice Sivasubramaniams death said that "the secret of his success as a good judge was that he was deeply religious. He practised what he preached and discharged his duties without fear or favour, guided by the philosophy and teaching of Bhagavadgita. He was truly a great Hindu gentleman wishing well of others, harbouring no illwill and offensive to none. He was a remarkable man who genuinely believed that the seat of Justice was a place of the performance of a divine function, who strove to discharge his duties with humility, without any trace of arrogance. His face was always lit with smiles, deep piety, integrity of character, independence of mind, devotion to duty and courage of his conviction marked his life and earned the respect of all who came in contact with him.
Even the former Attorney General, Mr. Sivapasupati once remarked that it may be difficult to reach consensus as to the essential qualities that go to make an ideal judge, but it would be easier to reach consensus that late Justice Siva Subramaniam was the ideal judge. During a period of about 30 years of his judicial career, he occupied almost every office in the judicial sphere. He displayed extraordinary patience and understanding as a judge.
Justice C. G. Weeramantry former Judge of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka and Judge of the International Court of Justice said that late Justice Sivasubramaniam was the symbol of the principal judicial virtues, impartiality, independence, scholarship, industry, courtesy, firmness, patience and above all a deep sense of justice. Justice Weeramantry quoting from the Law Books of the East and said that according to this the Members of a Royal Court of Justice must be acquainted with the (sacred) law and with rules of prudence, noble, veracious and impartial towards friend and foe. This was as close as one could get to a judicial portrait of Justice Sivasubramaniam who was ever mindful of the highest standards prescribed for judges by both law and religion. He achieved excellence as a judge of the Supreme Court on account of his courtesy towards the counsel, firmness to his rulings and full possession of facts and always master of his court.
Justice Sivasubramanim was born on March 14, 1908 and had his early education at Jaffna Hindu College. He later joined Ananda College. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of London. He was called to the Bar on March 8th 1933 and practised at the Jaffna Bar where he soon built up a steady and lucrative practice by dint of his ability and industry. He joined the judicial service on February 27th 1941 and functioned as Magistrate, District Judge in several places and also functioned as Additional Permanent Secretary, Acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice. In 1966, he was appointed to the Bench of the Supreme Court and he retired in April 1970.
Justice Sivasubramaniam was a Member of the Law Commission, the Board of Trustees of the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies, the Board of Management of Dr. N. M. Perera Memorial Trust, the Executive Committee of the Alumni Associates of Jaffna, Hindu College and Chairman of Hindu Advisory Council.
As a judge of the Supreme Court, late Justice Sivasubramaniam preserved the dignity of the courts and the image of justice. He always believed that judges should discharge their duties without fear or favour, affection, illwill or bias. While on the Bench he lived up to the essence of the art of judging namely an attentive and receptive ear, a mind open to conviction, a readiness to acknowledge error and a will resolve to do justice regardless of personal motives or prejudices. Besides, he possessed in full measure the learning, the ability, the quickness of thought and the capacity of hard work which enabled him to attain eminence as a lawyer and as a judge. According to late Justice Sivasubramaniam, a respected and an independent judiciary and a vigilant and strong Bar are indispensable to the administration of justice and for vindication of law.
As a judge, he maintained tremendous courage and a high degree of judicial statesmanship. He steered the courts with great dexterity through perils and floods and have left it with its stature no less high as when he was summoned to this high office. Indeed, Justice Sivasubramaniam polished manners, and sartorial elegance intellectual refinement and boldness of thought would assure him a permanent place in the legal thought and judicial literature of this country.
It is very often said that a woman is always behind a mans success in life. His wife Manonmany was a paragon of virtue. She was a scholar in Tamil language and literature and was a tower of strength and source of encouragement in all his endeavours. She sacrificed all her comforts to make him comfortable. Justice Sivasbramaniams son Rajan Sivasubramaniam, who is an AttorneyatLaw (Advocate) is excelling in his legal profession.
Undoubtedly late Justice Sivasubramaniam was steeped in Hindu culture. He was a Sri Lankan to the marrow of his bones. His mind was a mansion of noble thoughts. His integrity was unimpeachable. He was singularly free from the blemish hypocrisy. His sincerity was transparent crystal like. Nothing was concealed within.
In the words of the poet, Justice Sivasubramaniam was
a "statesman," yet friend to truth, of soul sincere.
In action, faithful and in honour clear,
Who broke no promise, served no private end.
Who gained no title and who lost no friend."
He was noble, nobility itself.
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