"Justice is not a cloistered virtue…"

AG quotes Lord Atkin in welcoming new CJ


"Justice is not a cloistered virtue. She must be allowed to suffer the scrutiny and respectful comments of the ordinary man", the Attorney General Palitha Fernando PC said quoting Lord Atkin, at the ceremonial welcome to new Chief Justice Mohan Peiris PC, on Wednesday (23).

The full text of the AG’s address: "Your Lordship the Chief Justice, Your Ladyships and Lordships Hon. Judges of the Supreme Court and of the Court of Appeal, Hon. Judges of the High Court, Members of the Judiciary.

This is yet another historic Ceremonial Sitting of the Supreme Court. We have assembled to accord a welcome to His Lordship the Chief Justice Peter Mohan Maithri Pieris.

On occasions such as this we gather ceremonially to wish the Head of the Judiciary on assuming duties and also to pledge our unstinted support in the discharge of onerous duties cast upon the High Office.

In doing so, members of the Official and unofficial Bar fortify themselves with the optimistic hope that independence of the judiciary and the Rule of law would be upheld to the optimum degree during the tenure of office of the Chief Justice they welcome.

As I commence the address of welcome on behalf of the official Bar may I express my sincere hope and unwavering confidence that Your Lordship will, during the tenure of Your Lordship’s Office, strive to the maximum possible degree, towards achieving those objectives.

Your Lordship had the distinction of attending two of the best schools of all St. Joseph's College, Colombo and Royal College, Colombo.

If I may strike a personal note, it was at Royale College Colombo I saw Your Lordship for the first time where your Lordship displayed Your Lordship's excellent debating skills as leader of the Royal College English debating team. Your reputation as a great orator and a master craftsman of the English language undoubtedly owes its origin to great oratorical skills which Your Lordship acquired and displayed both at Royal and St. Joseph's.

Your Lordship was also a member of the 1st Eleven Cricket team at Royal College where Your Lordship excelled both in sports and academic activities before entering the Sri Lanka Law College to mark the beginning of an illustrious career in the field of law.

Even as a young student, Your Lordship's oratorical skills have been amply recognized as demonstrated by Your Lordship being awarded a Gold Medal for English Oratory by the YMCA forum at an all island oratorical contest organized by the Rotary Club of Colombo. Your Lordship was also awarded the coveted Hector Jayawardane Gold Medal for being placed first at the Address to the Jury Contest in the English language at the Sri Lanka Law College.

Your Lordship assumes duties as the Head of the Apex Court of this country having served both the official and the unofficial Bar for a period of nearly four decades. During this period Your Lordship had the distinction of serving as the Attorney General and during the period Your Lordship served the unofficial Bar Your Lordship enjoyed a lucrative practice, in recognition of which Your Lordship was appointed a President's Counsel.

As Attorney General Your Lordship led many Sri Lankan Delegations at International Conferences and had the opportunity of representing the State in bilateral multilateral talks on many issues that were of importance to the interests of the State.

It would thus be no exaggeration to state that Your Lordship brings to the Apex Court a wealth of experience that would undoubtedly stand Your Lordship in good stead in the discharge of Your duties as the Chief Justice.

Your Lordship’s contribution to legal education of the Country cannot be underestimated under any circumstances. You have served as an examiner and also Chairman of the Board of Examiners under the Council of Legal Education in addition to being visiting lecturer in the Law of Evidence at the Faculty of Law of the University of Colombo.

I have no doubt that Your Lordship’s experience and exposure in the field of law would serve to enrich the legal literature through judgments of Your Lordship as the Chief Justice of this country. You Lordship would contribute in no small measure as you have already done as Counsel, in developing and interpreting the law and the legal jurisprudence which would be a precious inheritance to the legal fraternity. I would venture to state with confidence that we have no misgivings that through Your Lordship's meticulous written judgments in the diversity of jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, Your Lordship would contribute to shape the Sri Lankan Jurisprudence to become exemplary and persuasive to other jurisdictions of the world as well.

May I at this stage digress in order to share some thoughts applicable to the role of the judiciary as is customary on occasions such as this.

As your Lordship assumes duties as the Chief Justice, it is common knowledge that the Judiciary in recent times has been the subject of discussion and focus of attention to a degree unprecedented. The independence of the Judiciary and the Rule of Law are so closely interwoven that they form the structure upon which the democratic system is sustained.

Sir Gerrard Brenan Chief Justice of Australia, addressing some newly appointed judges said, I quote:

"It is only when the community has confidence in the integrity and capacity of the Judiciary that the community is governed by the Rule of law."

What we should not lose sight of is that judicial activity is increasingly falling within the purview of public scrutiny. In the case of Ambard v. Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago (1936 AC 322 at 335) Lord Atkin said, and I quote:

"Justice is not a cloistered virtue. She must be allowed to suffer the scrutiny and respectful comments of the ordinary man"

My Lord as Your Lordship assumes duties as the Head of the Judiciary, what has been entrusted to your Lordship is the ultimate court of appeal. The institution on which the ultimate destiny of all litigants depend.  The institution that has been the last resort to all men and women who seek justice. While expressing my confidence that the Judiciary would be in safe hands during Your Lordship’s tenure of office, I consider it appropriate to quote the words of Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd President of the United States of America, During His Inaugural address, he said and I quote:

"We are convinced and we act upon that conviction that our interests in States as well as in individuals, when soundly calculated will be found to be inseparable from our moral duty.

In the discharge of our official duties, it would be of the utmost importance that we note the moral obligations attached. This in my respectful view applies to the Judiciary just as much as it applies to any other sphere. President Abdul Kalam former President of The Republic of India once stated:

"If you salute your duty you need not salute anyone. If however you pollute your duty you will have to salute everyone."

I quote those words as words of wisdom and humbly express my confidence that Your Lordship would guide, lead and shape the judiciary, to the best of Your Lordship’s ability so that the independence of the judiciary would be sustained protected and upheld to the satisfaction of all citizens.

On behalf of the Official Bar I take this opportunity to express our firm commitment and unstinted support to Your Lordship in particular and to the Judiciary in general in achieving those objectives.

I thought it appropriate to conclude with following words of President Nixon of the United States of America, he said in his inauguration speech, and I quote

"Each moment in history is a fleeting time, precious and unique. But some stand out as moments of beginning, in which courses are set that shape decades or centuries"

Let this be such a moment.

May the Blessings of Noble Triple Gem bestow upon Your Lordship the strength and courage to guide the Judiciary in the right direction.

I thank Your Lordships.

animated gif
Processing Request
Please Wait...