Ranbanda and Lal PereraJuly 13, 2012, 8:06 pm
Ranbanda Seneviratne and Lal Perera were men with a great sense of humor and wit. Their repartee and wordplay were sometimes so brash that it floored the opposing counsel. Ranbanda, who hailed from Anuradhapura, was proud of his lineage, When others tried to hide their beginnings, he proudly proclaimed that he came from the remotest village in Wanni. Lal Perera hailed from Galle and had studied at St. Aloysious College. Ranbanda was like uncut diamond while Lal was the polished diamond.
T. B. Ellepola was the Chief Magistrate of Colombo. In those days Magistrates travelled by public transport as the vehicles provided to them from the government stores often broke down. Magistrate Ellepola knew how the ordinary people lived and their sufferings and problems. A leading cricketer, the first spin wizard and film star were produced before the Chief Magistrate Ellepola for abusing and insulting the President, JRJ. Lal Perera was defending them. Apparently, they had abused the President at a leading Cricket Club in the presence of a Police Officer and had entered into a heated argument. Magistrate Ellepola carefully studied the report of the police and very sternly said, "you have abused the President and insulted him and some of the words used cannot be read in Court. I am going to remand you indefinitely." Lal Perera, with a broad grin, knowing what was in store for them, but without any remorse quite nonchalantly said "Sir the report is full of balderdash. Even if you repeat the offensive remarks, my clients, one who is a leading cricketer and the other, a leading actor, would never ever utter any insult to the President of Sri Lanka. But the President’s mother is quite a different proposition sir. As you know, lady Wijewardene is not among the living and therefore, a charge of insult of a dead person cannot be maintained. Magistrate Ellepola could not hide his feelings but smile.
Those arrests were made immediately after the Indo-Lanka accord. Lal Perera said, "Unfortunately Sir, for all the misdeeds the children do, the mothers have to suffer." The Magistrate burst out laughing. He then immediately changed his composure, looked at the Police Officer and said "Even if I do not accept what Mr Perera said, in order to prove the charge of insult, the insulting words must be spoken in the presence of the complainant." Lal Perera immediately jumped from his seat and said "it was a great pleasure and privilege to have appeared before an astute jurist and a scholar and master of the Criminal Law like your honour. Your views could be only compared to Lord Atkin. As your Honour quite correctly said our President has better things to do than listen to the insults heaped upon him. If the police is of the view that everyone who insults the President must be charged then we must stop all the passengers travelling in the Ruhunu Kumari and they should be brought before Court." Magistrate Ellepolla took off his spectacles and asked Lal Perera what connection this incident had with the people travelling in the Ruhunu Kumari. "Sir every single passenger, that gets into the Ruhunu Kumari in Fort has nothing to do other than to listen to the abuse and insult others heap, not only on the President, after he signed some accord with that man Rajiv Gandhi, until the train reaches Matara.
Magistrate Ellepola could not hide his amusement. He laughed and released the two suspects on bail, severely warning them not to insult the President again.
Ranbanda Seneviratne was addressing the Supreme Court soon after the Secretary to the President K. Balapatabendi was appointed as President’s Counsel. He was opposed to Queens Counsel Dr. H. W. Jayawardena. Ranbanda said, "I am happy that my opponent Dr. H. W. Jayewardene is a Queen’s Counsel and not a President’s Counsel. The Chief Justice in order to provoke Ran Banda asked him why he made that statement as under the present Constitution, Queen’s Counsel cannot be appointed and the President appoints his own counsels as President’s Counsel. Ranbanda immediately told the Court ‘My Lord I do not think your Lordship is aware of the first President’s Counsel, who was appointed by the President. In the good old days, during the time of Caligula or even before that, the President or the Emperor was the Chief Executive and Chief Justice. When cases came before him, with his limited knowledge of worldly affairs and the law, he could not find out who was guilty and who was not, as he believed both versions and could would not believe that anyone would come before him and lie. When Ministers secretly told him that he had made some injudicious orders and there may be a revolt in the country to change the President, he was alarmed. The President loved animals and his favorite pet was a donkey. One day the President came to the chamber of Justice riding a donkey and he kept it near him. After the first trial, he saw the donkey lifting one leg and pointing it at the defendant. He gave the judgment in favour of the defendant. At the next case he saw the donkey, very attentively listing to the evidence. The donkey brayed when the plaintiff was giving evidence and the President gave the judgment in favour of the defendant. If the Donkey did not make any gesture, the case was postponed. Unlike today, there was no backlog of case. The Chief Justice asked what the reason for that was. Ranbanda, looking at Dr. Jayewardene at once said that there weren’t Queen’s Counsel to ask for dates. The whole Court laughed. Continue, the Chief Justice said. Ranbanda continuing his narration said, "After about a week the Chief Minister saw the President and said the judgments delivered by him last week were absolutely correct and just. The President smiled and decided that thereafter the donkey would be a permanent feature and a special stable was built in the Court house. After about six months he had given one wrong order. How did that happen? On that day when the trial was proceeding, the Donkey urinated befouling the atmosphere of Court and the President did not know what significance it had. Thereafter, at a Royal ceremony, the Donkey was renamed as President’s Counsel. So, the first President’s Counsel my Lord is the Donkey. The role has been reversed today under the present President. Instead of appointing donkeys as President’s Counsel, he appoints human donkeys as President’s Counsel. There was so much loud and pro-longed laughter in the Court house that the Chief Justice had to adjourn the proceedings for a short time.
Lal Perera, who was practicing in England for a short time had a night out with his senior partner. It was a Sunday night and both of them got so drunk that the English senior partner ended up sleeping in Lal’s flat. When Lal woke up on Monday morning the senior partner had left for work.
When Lal went to work on Monday, he was five minutes late. The senior partner with whom he had been drinking sent him a note "You are five minutes late." Lal Perera wrote back "if you cannot give me five minutes grace. You are a disgrace!." The senior partner felt so embarrassed that he crushed the note.
Ranbanda Seneviratne was making a statement at the Bar Council when Dr. Jayewardene tried to intervene to correct him. Ranbanda told the President ‘Sir I will take any ruling from the chair, but not from every Tom, Dick and Harry! To his dying day Dr. Jayewardene never again crossed words with Ranbanda Seneviratne.
What’s Sri Lanka’s best overseas Test win?
Last Updated May 22 2013 | 10:58 pm