Written by Zulfick Farzan
21 Jan, 2021 | 1:29 pm
Colombo (News 1s); “My desire is to do justice to mankind in accordance with the law and acting according to my conscience and without any distinction as to race, religion, language, gender, identity, the status of parties or any other factors,” said Justice Kumudini Wickramasinghe at the Ceremonial Sitting at the Supreme Court on Wednesday (20).
“We have to work together to dispense justice to the society and clear the backlog,” said Justice Kumudini Wickramasinghe noting that the staff also should be trained accordingly and provided with sufficient facilities.
The current situation in the country warrants the utilization of online platforms to hear cases since it is not healthy for a country to halt its judicial functions even in a time of a pandemic, she said.
“We take note of the urgency to educate the judiciary to conduct cases online, in order to avert the delay in the disposal of cases,” she added.
Cyber-crime has emerged as a major challenge facing law enforcement agencies in the country and it is strongly suggested that police personnel with knowledge and skills for prevention and control of cyber-crime and preventative initiatives be trained, specifically to curtail cyber-crime against women and children, Justice Kumudini Wickramasinghe highlighted.
Efforts have been made to grant legal aid to the poor but, enough has not been done and the system requires further augmentation and strengthening, she stressed.
READ THE FULL STATEMENT BELOW:
Hon. Chief Justice – Jayantha Jayasooriya President’s Counsel, Hon. Attorney General – Dappula De Livera President’s Counsel, Judges of the Supreme Court, Solicitor General, President of the Bar Association – Mr. Kalinga Indatissa President’s Counsel and other Judges of the Court of Appeal, Civil Appellate High Court, High Court, Learned District Court Judges, Learned Magistrates, members of the official and unofficial bar, ladies and gentlemen.
I sincerely thank both Mr. Attorney and President of the Bar Association for your kind sentiments expressed.
I accept those words expressed in welcoming me as a Judge of the apex court, with pleasure, strength, weight and encouragement and a deep sense of humility. I assure you that I will always, to the best of my ability, endeavor to dispense justice without fear or favour.
My desire is to do justice to mankind in accordance with the law and acting according to my conscience and without any distinction as to race, religion, language, gender, identity, status of parties or any other factors as per Article 7 of UDHR and Article 26 of ICCPR. As in the famous words of Martin Luther King Jr. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”
All those years I have been acting according to my conscience and I assure you that it will be continued even in the future.
I wish to briefly reminisce upon the wonderful days of my professional career, spanning over 3 and half decades, as an Attorney and in the Public and Judicial Services.
Being in the Attorney General’s Department for 2 decades I had the opportunity to get involved in honorous duties and responsibilities that immensely helped me to successfully perform my subsequent duties as a member of the Judiciary. Representing the Attorney General, I had the opportunity of appearing in the Appellate Court especially in 107, the Court of Criminal appeals, where I presided in sittings as a Judge of the Court of Appeal as well.
I joined as a High Court Judge in April 2006 where I was the 1st High Court Judge of Polonnaruwa. It was certainly a challenge which I took up as a pleasant experience since at that time even the Court House was not even properly furnished.
After sometime served as the chief High Court Judge where the responsibilities were even more and during that time I managed to have surveillance in the court premises and managed to control many illegal activities taking place in the premises. Thereafter I presided as the Civil Appellate High Court Judge in Mount Lavinia where I was elevated to Court of Appeal in February 2015. I am now promoted to the Supreme Court. (After 6 years)
The judiciary of our country enjoys a high prestige and is the pride of every citizen. The responsibility of a Judge is to safeguard the prestige, and dispense justice to the society, protecting and preserving the values.
According to Socrates there are 4 characteristics of a Judge; to hear courteously, to answer wisely, to consider soberly and to decide impartially. The role of the Judge as an unbiased umpire is well demonstrated in the judgment of the Court of Appeal in England, in Yuill vs. Yuill as well. (29 C.L.W. at page 102).
“It is not the purpose of a juryman’s office to give justice as a favor to whoever seems good to him, but to judge according to the law, and this he has sworn to do.”
Since 1978 the numbers of Apex Court judges were not increased and now a giant step has been taken, especially to increase the number of judges in the Apex Court to accommodate more appeals and revision applications from the original Courts. There had been a bottle neck for so many decades.
Therefore, we have to work together to dispense justice to society and clear the back log. The staff also should be trained accordingly and provided with sufficient facilities.
The prevailing situation – COVID 19 pandemic, has given us the warning that it is high time that we moved with technological development and familiarized ourselves with electronic systems and commenced hearing cases via online platforms. In the recent past judges have been given training on statutory provisions with regard to cyber laws.
The experience I acquired as a participant in the 22nd Plenary Meeting of the Cybercrime Convention Committee 5th meeting of the Protocol Drafting Plenary and the Octopus Conference which was held at the Council of Europe, France (November, 2019) served me well when dealing with cases where Science & Technology, cybercrime and accounts were involved. At this juncture I would like to thank the Cyber Crime trainers of Glacy Project for training us.
Nevertheless, the current situation in the country warrants the utilization of online platforms to hear cases since it is not healthy for a country to halt its judicial functions even in a time of a pandemic. It has to be noted that initiatives have been taken to hear cases via online platforms. It is suggested that we take note of the urgency to educate the judiciary to conduct cases online, in order to avert the delay in the disposal of cases.
The contribution of the lawyers towards the development of the system is also essential.
Harassment in the Digital Space
It is true that the society has stepped towards digitalization thus digital space has opened doors to cyber criminals and mostly women and children is their target. Cyber-crime has emerged as a major challenge facing law enforcement agencies in the country and it is strongly suggested that police personnel with knowledge and skills for prevention and control of cyber-crime and preventative initiatives be trained, specifically to curtail cyber-crime against women and children.
I think I am duty bound to look into the interests of women and children as the gender representative of the Indian Ocean countries appointed by Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association.
There is also an alarming requirement for knowledge and awareness with regard to this. Therefore it is important to educate the public on these cyber laws adequately.
Equality before law
It is hardly necessary for me to emphasize the importance and dignity of this office. If I put it simply we have to do justice, to do this we must not take part in malpractice or misuse our positions. We have to expound and interpret the law and it must be so done honestly, fairly, patiently, attentively and impartially without fear or favour.
A large majority of our people still live below the poverty line. It would be unrealistic to expect them to afford the services of a competent advocate. Efforts have been made to grant legal aid to the poor but, enough has not been done and the system requires further augmentation and strengthening.
To conclude, I thank Nayaka Thero of Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya and Nayaka Thero of Kiribathgoda Rajamaha Viharaya for their support and good wishes.
I would like to thank the following, the late Dr. Colvin R de Silva, late Mr. Sarath Muththttuwagama where I did original court work and also Mrs. Muththttuwagama.
At this point I would like to mention former Attorney’s General, seniors, colleagues and many other distinguished legal personalities, President’s Counsel out of which some of them now practicing in the unofficial bars who have become eminent lawyers, unfortunately not among living and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
I thank all my seniors, supervising officers, senior justices, my colleagues, brother and sister judges, official and unofficial bar lawyers practicing in many stations who have been with me always and cooperating with me.
I extend my gratitude to my alma mater, Visakha Vidyalaya and to all my teachers of Visakha Vidyalaya.
I also take this opportunity to thank the lecturers of Sri Lanka Law College, University of Oslo, Forensic Medicine – University of Colombo and also Accountancy. Their input has assisted me immensely to solve in problems to meet justice. Also, colleagues of mine who were with me in the Faculty of graduate studies.
I take this opportunity to thank my late parents who have looked after me with great care, affectation and encouragement in every endeavor of my life. I am very grateful to my mother who set an example, how to balance family with my professional work.
I thank my husband, my best friend, Asanga who has been always with me in ups and downs in my life where, I needed assistance, care and well-timed advice. His relatives who treated me as their own.
Special thanks goes to both my brothers, elder brother Rasendra, his wife Dr Nishanimi and their children in New Zealand and my younger brother Nalin Krunasinghe, his wife Geethanjali and their children Navidha and Dinadi who are present here today.
I thank my son Sajeewa who got married day before yesterday who is present here today for the very first time for one of my official functions since he was abroad studying and working, his beloved wife Keshiya, my other daughter and the Renganathan family who are present here today, I am thankful for you all for always being there for me.
I give a big thank you to Asanga, my both children for tolerating me, specially when I was away serving in out stations with my busy schedule. To my demanding and adored daughter Grace for assisting me with my research work.
Special thanks to Asanga’s friends who are present here today, my friends in school, Law College, family friends, aunts and uncles, cousins, other relatives and friends who are present here today and who have sent me their wishes.
I thank the registrars, marshal, Court Staff, Secretaries present and past, Research Officers, Personal security Officers, other officers and balance Staff for discharging their duties.
In conclusion, I thank every one of you who is present here today to encourage me at this special occasion and all the well wishes.
To end with, in the words of late justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “ I would like to be remembered as someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the best of her ability” .
May the Triple Gem Bless you!
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