1st September Birthday Tribute
Justice P. Ramanathan



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I did not know justice Ramanathan in his student days Whether at St. Joseph's College, or at a public school in India, or in England. With a degree from a University in Wales Rama came to London to read law for the Bar. It was a predictable path for a son who came from a distinguished Tamil family. In London, he found many other law students from Ceylon. Here he formed lasting friendships and these friends loved and respected Rama throughout his career. He had his training in the Attorney-General’s Department, no easy place where seniors do not brook indolence. With his entry to the newly created High Court, he began to acquire the skills required of a judge. I met Rama first at the regular birthday parties of his dear friend, the late Desmond Fernando, P.C. This was the occasion for the get-together of the London friends. I was struck by his simplicity and good nature.


In due course, Rama became a judge of the Court of Appeal and was introduced to the role of a judge of the Superior Courts. When Justice Ramanathan came to the Supreme Court, it was as a Judge rich in experience and ability. Yet his upbringing would not permit him to hold himself as a person learned in the law whether to his colleagues on the Bench or to lawyers appearing before him. As a judge Rama was much needed in Hulftsdorp. He was a friend to lawyers, a ready listener, whose chambers was always open to them. He always put us at ease and we could laugh and relax in his chambers.


Rama’s marriage to Mano who was in the Legal Draftsman’s Department delighted his friends. Mano’s father Suppiah Saravanamuttu was a popular figure in Hulftsdorp; an able criminal lawyer who had a great sense of humour.


One of the memories I have of the Supreme Court, is the bench presided by the then Chief Justice GPS de Silva with Justice Kulatunga and justice Ramanathan as the other judges. It was a regularly constituted bench popular with lawyers. Justice Kulatunga would do most of the talking engaging lawyers in argument. When the air got hot, the Chief Justice would turn to his left and whisper to justice Ramanathan who would nod in agreement or say a few words. The Chief Justice would then turn to his right and whisper to justice Kulatunga, and the Court would relax. Many important cases would come before Justice Ramanathan who would follow the arguments carefully. We knew that he contributed to the final decision even if he did not write the judgment.


It was Chief Justice GPS de Silva who truly said of his friend Rama that, "he possessed in ample measure the essential attributes of a good judge, namely, impartiality, integrity and a strong sense of justice and fairness". Yes! Justice Ramanathan did it his way.


Deshamanya R.K.W. Goonesekere


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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