HISTORY OF JUDGES’ INSTITUTE OF SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka Judges’ Institute holds the rare distinction of being the only judicial institute in Sri Lanka providing judicial education for Sri Lankan Judicial officers and enhancing their professional standards.
Before the Judges’ Institute was established, the only training the judicial officers had, before they assumed their judicial duties, was a few weeks of court observation sitting with the presiding judge. It was strongly felt that judges who administer justice must have the training not only before they commence their judicial career, but that the training be a continuous process throughout their judicial career. It was then realized that in-depth and regular training for judicial officers should be designed where judicial officers of all ranks would get judicial training on regular basis.
The idea of a Judge’s Institute was first mooted by Mr. P.B. Herat, then Secretary, Ministry of Justice who having seen such an institute in France had written an article to the Newsletter of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka in 1982. But, as is usual, nothing was done about it and it was a voice in the wilderness. Mr. P.B. Herat who was the first to think of the Judges’ Institute as Secretary, Justice was a steady source of encouragement to the Institute and became a very strong ally of the Institute.
In about September, 1983, the Justice Ministry was able to lure the dynamic Dr. A.R.B. Amerasinghe, then adorning a place in the Supreme Court Bench, to take over as Secretary, Ministry of Justice. Towards the end of l984, the then Chief Justice Mr. Neville D.M. Samarakoon, Q.C., invited Justice J.F.A SOZA who had just retired as a Judge of the Supreme Court for a meeting with the then Chief Justice and Dr. A.R.B. Amerasinghe, the then Secretary, Ministry of Justice.
Together they mooted the forming of a Judge’s Institute for the provision of in-service continued legal education for Judges and Justice J.F.A. Soza was appointed the Director of the Sri Lanka Judges’ Institute on the 02 May, 1984. The question of funding had already been discussed with Mr. John Guyer, the Resident Representative of Asia Foundation. The first thing to be done was to find premises to house the new Institute. After looking at various alternatives, the Annex of Sri Lanka Foundation was taken on rent for one year. Steps were taken to furnish it. This was all done through the munificence of Asia Foundation. Some Seminars were held thereafter but only ad hoc programmes could be put through as approval of the Government had to be obtained.
Thereafter steps were taken to enact legislation on the subject. In the meantime in view of the Cabinet direction, the Judicial Service Commission took over the arrangement of seminars. The nascent Judge’s Institute had its birth pangs. It was fortunate that Dr. A.R.B. Amerasinghe an outstanding intellect and a man of vision was there to espouse its cause. His name has to be writ large in the genesis of the Judge’s Institute as efforts resulted in the eventual establishment of the Sri Lanka Judges Institute by an Act of Parliament titled “Sri Lanka Judges’ Institute Act No. 46 of 1985 which was certified on the 20th November, 1985.
Justice Soza was formally appointed Director with effect from 1st January, 1986. Since then the Judges’ Institute has by organizing Seminars, Workshops, Practice Notes, and with an on-going Advisory Service served the Judges in every possible way. In 1990, JusticeSoza was fortunate to be given the assistance of Justice K. Viknarajah, who joined as Deputy Director and Mr. P. Neville A. de Silva who joined the Institute as its Secretary on retirement from the Chief Justice’s Secretariat.
The Judges Institute is run by a Board of Management headed by the Chief Justice as Chairman ex-officio, and two appointed members, generally the two most senior Judges of the Supreme Court. The Administration and management of the Judges’ Institute was vested in the Board of Management.
The first Chairman of the Board of Management of the Judges’ Institute was Chief justice S. Sharvananda who was a keen supporter of the Institute. He was followed by Chief Justice Parinda Ranasinghe. He had himself been a member of the Judiciary and he threw himself wholeheartedly into the affairs of the Institute. He participated in all its seminars and activities. He held discussions with Lawyers and Surveyors at the seminars and set up Monitoring Committees with a view to establishing cordial relations between bench and bar. The Institute will always remember him.
Thereafter Justice H.D. Tambiah became the Chairman of the Board of Management having being appointed the Chief Justice who by that time had already served as a member of the Board of Management and made an important contribution in the progress of the Institute.
Judges Institute expresses our gratitude to Asia Foundation earlier headed by Mr. John Guyer and thereafter by Mr. Nick Langton to whose support the Institute owes its very existence. Our Institute, we are proud to say, is one of the prime concerns of the Foundation and a beneficiary of its largesse. The Institute is thereafter located in the premises of the Supreme Court at Hulftsdorp and later training programs were conducted at the official residence of His Lordship the Chief Justice at Wijerama Mawatha, Colombo 7. Presently, the Institute is located on the 5th and 6th Floor of the Ministry of Justice New Building at Adikarana Mawatha, Colombo 12.
Courtesy- Judges’ Journal- 2003