Justice P. Ramanathan Death Anniversary


The late Deshamanya Justice P Ramanathan was an exceptional human being who was a man of many accomplishments. He was the recipient of many accolades in various spheres of life.

My personal interactions with Justice Ramanathan stemmed from the fact that we lived on the same street, Melbourne Avenue, Bambalapitiya, in the 1980’. Justice Ramanathan was very regular in the exercise he took. He walked past our home on a daily basis. On many occasions, he would interrupt his walk to proffer wise advice and exchange views on a wide array of subjects. From our conversations, it was palpably obvious that this was a man of great compassion, civility and wisdom. His life was full and rich. His contribution to the affairs of this country was notable for its diversity and calibre.

By birth, Justice Ramanathan belonged to a very elite family. Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan was his great grandfather and Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam was his great granduncle. Despite this, he was a man of much humility who was very much at home with people from all walks of life. This came very naturally to him, such was the quality of his personality.

Justice Ramanathan had a multi-faceted personality. This is reflected in the multitude of accomplishments and accolades he achieved during his very fulfilled life. He was President of the Court of Appeal; Judge of the Supreme Court; Bencher of Gray’s Inn; Deshamanya; Governor of the Western Province; Chancellor of the University of Uva-Wellassa; Member of the Court of Arbitration at the Hague; and Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka. In addition, he was a Trustee of the Ponnambalavaneswara Temple, in Colombo; and a Past President of the Medico-Legal Association, the British Scholars’ Association and the Rotary Club. He was also known for having Dachshunds which were Champions of the Kennel Club.

As for his personal attributes, one was always stuck by his inner serenity and tranquillity. Equanimity is a good word to capture the essence of Justice Ramanathan, the Man. He was also very generous in the support and friendship he offered, particularly to those in need. There was no ill-will or rancour towards anybody in his being. He had great faith in a meritocracy and held firmly the conviction that no-one’s opportunities should be constrained by ethnicity, religious beliefs, class or caste. Above all, he had a deeply entrenched commitment to justice and the rule of law.

As a judge, Justice Ramanathan acquitted himself with distinction in handling the cases before him. He was respected and loved by his peers in the judiciary, the Bar and litigants. Through our conversations, it was clear that he had a keen understanding of the social, political and economic forces at work. He displayed sound common sense, a good understanding of human nature and a robust independence. These personal characteristics served him well in his judicial work.

Justice Ramanathan married Mano relatively late in life. She was a valued colleague on the Monetary Board until recently. She is the daughter of the late Subbiah Saravanamuttu, Advocate. She brought much happiness and stability to his life. Her quiet, dignified and kind ways were a perfect complement to Justice Ramanathan’s more outgoing and gregarious personality.

Justice Ramanathan lived his life as an example to all of us.

Dr Indrajit Coomaraswamy

Governor, Central Bank of Sri Lanka

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