Dr. Jayatissa De Costa - a legend | Sunday Observer

Dr. Jayatissa De Costa - a legend

31 January, 2021
Dr. Jayatissa De Costa
Dr. Jayatissa De Costa

Ignorance of law is no excuse when every man is bound to take notice of what the law to which he is subjected to – Thomas Hobbs.

Fifty years in life is long on any standard. Dr. Jayatissa De Costa has been a lawyer, engaged in academic work and teaching for the benefit of professionals and the public while involved in social service for 50 years.

He is an author of books, periodicals and one of the best political analysts specialised in election law and practice in Sri Lanka. He is consulted by academics the world over on his specialised areas of law. He has taken the responsibility of educating the citizens, professionals on the law as ignorance of law is no excuse. It is the duty of a civic minded citizen to educate the public on the legal procedure and principles of law.

He initiated educating prospective lawyers and law teachers during his early stages of studentship and practice with his colleagues, such as Dr Palitha Kohona, Prof Karunaratna Angawatta, Laksiri Mendis and a few others as youngsters then, now in the highest echelons of profession. When conducting the classes of law was the monopoly of a few with the knowledge of English, he initiated conducting law classes in Sinhala and Tamil to help society true to the word. Dr. Costa has an unblemished professional career. His interviews to the media in Sinhala and English are clear and educative to the public.

Dr. Costa chose the hard way in studies and practice. President’s Counsel Jayatissa De Costa LL B Ceylon PhD Colombo, is the first practising lawyer in Sri Lanka, who has obtained a PhD in law from a law faculty of a recognised university in Sri Lanka. He is supposed to have trained the largest number of apprenticing lawyers in the country.

Outstanding student

He studied at the School of Oriental and African Studies (London University) and obtained an LLM. He was awarded the ‘Edwina Mountbatten’ grant for being an outstanding Commonwealth student in the UK in 1983.

The University of Colombo awarded him with a PhD on election Law in Sri Lanka. He continued as a lecturer at the Law College, law faculty, Bandaranaike Centre of International Studies and acted as a coordinator of a number of foreign universities in Sri Lanka and supervised students from many foreign universities.

During his career of 50 years, he has appeared in thousands of civil and criminal cases, but yet found time to serve the nation as a member of the Law Commission, the Chairman of Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka and many more. He has authored a number of law books and numerous articles to newspapers and was interviewed by academics and the media worldwide. He has published over 31 books, some of which are listed as - Law of Parliamentary Elections, Legal History, Legal System of Sri Lanka’, Jurisprudence, Roman Law, Introduction to Administrative Law, Criminal Law, Introduction to Human Rights, Constitutional Law and the latest being the Laws of Sri Lanka which is going to be the hand book in universities worldwide.

He is the founder editor of the Asian Law Journal. The ‘Southampton ‘Solen’ University in the UK appointed him as a supervisor on examinations followed by many institutions.

Law College

Dr. Costa functioned as the Principal of the Law College which is the only institution in Sri Lanka to train members of the legal professional to be professionals managed by the Council of Legal Education headed by the Chief Justice.

As the Principal of Law College, the changes and novel practices introduced by him are complemented by the legal professionals countrywide. Constitution and Election law are his pet subjects. The books written by him on these subjects are text books used by lawyers and law students.

He started the profession/practice from Horana, in the original court and shifted to Colombo at the Apex legal centre at Hulftsdorp. His ‘Chamber’ is a haven for many senior or junior lawyer to start practice, seek advice and assistance, to date serving a large circle of lawyers in all areas of law countrywide.

Dr. Costa found time for national development by serving as a member of Law Commission, Member of the Board of Governors at ‘Laxman Kadigramar Centre’, Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies and served in the Executive Committee of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka as an Editor.

He was a past pupil of Dharmapala Vidyalaya, Pannipitiya where he was awarded the ‘’Dharamapala Swarna Padma’’ award meant to outstanding past pupils. He served as a member of the Income Tax Review Board, Member of the Land Acquisition Board and a Member of the Agricultural Tribunal. He was also invited to function as a lecturer of the University of Maiduguri and senior state advocate on the Government of Zambia.

His career throughout has been revolutionary, modern and innovative with full of goodwill and praise from the community for the services rendered and achievements gained in all areas in private and public life in Sri Lanka and world over. Let us wish him strength, vigour and long life to serve the nation better beyond 50 years of practice.