V. Manicavasagar

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Manicavasagar Vaithalingam
Justice Manicavasagar.JPG
Puisne Justice of the Supreme Court of Ceylon
Assumed office
December 17, 1964
Appointed by Sirimavo Bandaranaike
Chairman of the Commercial Bank of Ceylon
In office
April 1980 March 1985
Chancellor of the University of Jaffna
In office
January 1, 1979 1984
Personal details
BornDecember 17, 1906
Colombo, British Ceylon
DiedDecember 27, 1993
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Nationality Sri Lanka
Spouse(s)Valamba Manicavasagar née Selliah
Relations Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam, Sir Arunachalam Mahadeva, D. M. Swaminathan Justice Siva Selliah
ChildrenArunachala Manicavasagar, Nirmala Ragunanthan née Manicavasagar
Residence78 Ward Place, Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Alma mater Colombo Law College,
Royal College Colombo

Deshamanya Manicavasagar Vaithalingam (December 17, 1906 - December 12, 1993) was a Sri Lankan lawyer, Puisne Justice of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, Chancellor of the University of Jaffna [1] and Chairman of the Commercial Bank of Ceylon. [2]


Early years

Vaithalingam was born on December 17, 1906 to prominent Colombo stockbroker Mudaliyar Arunachala Vaithalingam. Both his paternal and maternal family hails from the affluent town of Manipay, Jaffna. He began his education at the Royal College, Colombo [3] where he excelled in academics and went on to obtain a degree in law from the Colombo Law College.

Judicial career

The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka in Colombo Supreme Court Colombo.jpg
The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka in Colombo

Vaithalingam joined the judicial service 9 years after being called to the bar, as an Acting Magistrate in Mallakan. For over two decades, he functioned as a Magistrate and District Judge in different parts of the island and in October, 1962, he was appointed a Commissioner of Assize. He continued as such till his appointment to the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka in 1964 by President Sirimavo Bandaranaike.


Mentioned below are a few of the numerous judgments in which Justice Vaithalingam was involved. All of the cases below are from the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka and no judgments from lower courts have been included. [4]

Cases presided over

Cases in which referred to for Common Law purposes

  • Arumugam Coomaraswamy v. Andris Appuhamy and Others - SLR - 219, Vol 2 of 1985 [1985] LKSC 8; (1985) 2 Sri LR 219 (19 June 1985)
  • Wellington v. Amerasinghe - SLR - 41, Vol 1 of 1987 [1986] LKSC 38; (1987) 1 Sri LR 41 (10 November 1986)
  • Subair v. Isthikar - NLR - 397 of 77 [1974] LKSC 5; (1974) 77 NLR 397 (3 July 1974)
  • WAHemadasa v. JL Sirisena - NLR - 201 of 69 [1966] LKSC 29; (1966) 69 NLR 201 (22 September 1966)
  • Jeyaraj Fernandopulle v. Premachandra De Silva and Others - SLR - 70, Vol 1 of 1996 [1996] LKSC 14; (1996) 1 Sri LR 70 (9 July 1996)
  • Gunaratne Menike v. Jayatileke Banda - SLR - 152, Vol 2 of 1995 [1994] LKSC 43; (1995) 2 Sri LR 152 (13 December 1994)

Post-Judicial Career

Justice V. Manicavasagar (left) opening the first Commercial Bank Branch in Galewela Galewela Branch Opening 1972.jpeg
Justice V. Manicavasagar (left) opening the first Commercial Bank Branch in Galewela

After retiring from the Supreme Court, Vaithalingam was appointed Chairman of the Commercial Bank of Ceylon and was then appointed as the first Chancellor of the University of Jaffna.

In Retirement, he was a member of both the Citizen Committee and the Delimitation Committee among many others. A devote Hindu, he also served as President of the Educational Society for many years. [5]

As Chancellor of the University of Jaffna

Vaithalingam was appointed as the first Chancellor of the University of Jaffna by the President of Sri Lanka with effect from the first of January, 1979. In the course of his tenure, which lasted half a decade, he presided over the first convocation held at the Veerasingam Hall on the 13th of September 1980 and also delivered the very first convocation address. He was also conferred with a Doctorate by the University. [6]


Vaithalingam was awarded the Deshamanya Award within two years of its founding in 1987. [7] He was the first Sri Lankan Tamil to receive the award and the appearance of common ground between the government and a prominent Tamil caused an adverse reaction from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The LTTE called on him to refuse the reward, if he valued his life; however, Vaithalingam defied the outfit and accepted the honour.

Ethnic Conflict

In the citizens committee chaired by his good friend and former colleague on the bench, O. L. de Kretser, he worked on the Report of the Commission of Inquiry, on the Tragedy of January Tenth 1974 along with Bishop Sabapathy Kulendran of the Church of South India in Jaffna. [8]

Language Rights

"I went to the office of the Government Agent in Colombo in July 1973. In order to find my way to the officer I wanted to meet, I saw a board in Sinhala only. I enquired in English from the clerk who was seated behind the counter as to what it said. His reply in Sinhala was “Don’t you know how to read Sinhala?” I replied in English that I could not understand what he said. He said in Sinhala: “Go and learn Sinhala and come back.” A bystander told me what the board conveyed" - Justice Manicavasagar Vaithalingam 1974

Refugee Studies Centre of the University of Oxford, Children and Armed Conflict in Sri Lanka, Jason Hart, PHD

Personal life

Vaithalingam married Valamba, the eldest daughter of Nannithamby Selliah of Rosmead Place - son of Visva Udayar Sangarapillai Nannithamby, Broker of Mackwood & Co. & his wife Sellam, daughter of Kandarthamby Kandiah (Chattambiar) - and sister of Justice Siva Selliah, High Court Judge. [9]

They have two children: (1)Arunachala Manicavasagar, JP, who married Skandaleela - daughter of Proctor Sivakolundu Rajendran (JP, NP) and his wife Kamalambigai, youngest daughter of Stowell Elaithamby Murgesampillai - and his younger sister, (2)Nirmala Ragunanthan, who was married to the late Ragunanthan Thambimutha, Managing Director of Raniyo (Pvt) Ltd. Both of his children continue to live in Colombo while his grandchildren reside in North America.

Vaithalingam and his wife were prominent members of the upper echelons of society; however, he and his wife were both devout Hindus engaged in several charitable works. Vaithalingam was very close to his wife and largely left society life for a spiritual undertaking and much-subdued persona following her passing.

Vaithalingam remained close friends with Junius Richard Jayewardene up until his death in 1993. As per an anecdote by Justice Naharaja, when the former president came to visit Vaithalingam while he was on his deathbed, Vaithalingam in a sour state joked about the workings of society by telling Jayewardene that though he had time and again bested him in every academic endeavor throughout their academic career, he had only become a Supreme Court Judge whilst it was Jayewardene that had become President - questioning the workings of society. The statement was quickly laughed away.


  1. Archived January 22, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  2. "Board of Directors | Commercial Banking | Commercial Bank Sri Lanka". Combank.net. Retrieved 2013-11-23.
  3. "Old Royalists Association in the United Kingdom (ORAUK)". Oldroyalists.org.uk. Retrieved 2013-11-23.
  4. "CommonLII Results - manicavasagar". Commonlii.org. Retrieved 2013-11-23.
  5. "Welcome to UTHR, Sri Lanka". Uthr.org. Retrieved 2013-11-23.
  6. http://www.azeezfoundation.com/2010/10/25/university-of-jaffna-honours-a-m-a-azeez/
  7. "National Awards". Presidential Secretariat - Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. Retrieved 2014-06-02.
  8. Sri Lankan Ethnic Crisis: Towards a Resolution By R. B. Herath (p.55)
  9. "Opinion". Nation.lk. Retrieved 2013-11-23.

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