J. F. A. Soza

Deshabandu Joseph Francis Anthony Soza (1919 – 8 April 2013[1]) was a former judge of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. He has been described as "an outstandingly independent judge" who "turned out to be a fearless and vocal defender of the rights of victimized people."[2]

Joseph Francis Anthony Soza
Puisne Justice of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka
In office
January 26, 1982 – February 3, 1984
Personal details
BornFebruary 4, 1919
Negombo, Sri Lanka
DiedApril 8, 2013
Colombo, Sri Lanka
NationalitySri Lankan


Soza was educated at Maris Stella College, Negombo. He taught English and Pure Mathematics at St. Joseph's College, Bandarawela, Ceylon Technical College and Ananda College, Colombo.[1] After graduating in arts and law from the University of London, he enrolled as an advocate after completing his studies at the Sri Lanka Law College, where he was also president of the law students' union.[3]

Judicial careerEdit

Following a brief stint as a lawyer, Soza commenced his distinguished judicial career as a magistrate in Balapitiya. After serving the original courts as magistrate, district judge and high-court judge he was appointed a judge of the Court of Appeal in 1978. In January 1982, President J. R. Jayawardene appointed him as judge of the Supreme Court. He retired from judicial service in February 1984.

Other activitiesEdit

Soza was the editor-in-chief of the Sri Lanka Law Reports for more than 25 years (1979-2005). As the founding director of the Sri Lanka Judges' Institute, he played a major role in the training of judicial officers in the country.[4] As the first chairman of the Human Rights Task Force (now known as the Human Rights Commission) during the post-insurgency period 1991-1994, he was responsible for investigating cases of human rights abuse by state authorities.[5] Among his celebrated disclosures was the Embilipitiya Students' Disappearance case.[6][7]

He was chairman of the Sri Lanka Foundation and a member of several presidential commissions of inquiry. In 1992, President Premadasa conferred on him the national honour Deshabandu in recognition of his distinguished service to the country.[8]

Landmark judgmentsEdit

As a high-court judge of Colombo and chairman of the trial-at-bar of TULF Leader Appapillai Amirthalingam, on 10 September 1976, Soza created "an explosion of jubilation" by holding invalid the emergency regulations under which the case was filed.[9]

In the Supreme Court he was widely known for his illuminating judgments, especially concerning fundamental rights. He wrote the landmark opinion in the Vivienne Goonewardena assault case, in which it was declared that the police infringed the petitioner's freedom of expression.[10] Incensed by the judgment, pro-police demonstrators stoned the residences of Soza and the other two judges who had tried the case.[11]


  1. ^ a b Death of former SC Judge Anton Soza at Daily News (Sri Lanka), 10 April 2013
  2. ^ Weerakoon, Bradman Rendering Unto Caesar. New Dawn Press, 2004
  3. ^ Amerasinghe, A.R.B. Supreme Court of Sri Lanka - Its first 185 years. Sarvodaya Vishva Lekha 1988.
  4. ^ De Silva, Mahanil Prasantha. Venerate the deserving, Justice Soza at Daily News (Sri Lanka), 12 April 2013
  5. ^ Leob, Vernon Sri Lankan Activists Keeping A Lonely Vigil The Men Who Killed Her Son Cannot Stop The Mothers' Crusade at Philly.com, Philadelphia, 6 September 1992
  6. ^ Sri Lanka Law Reports The Embilipitiya abduction and murder case Archived 2013-07-03 at Archive.today
  7. ^ Hoole, Rajan Student Victims of Embilipitiya and Trincomalee: How the State Obstructs Justice Archived 2013-03-18 at the Wayback Machine at Dbsjeyaraj.com, 2 January 2010.
  8. ^ Presidential Secretariat National Awards Recipients
  9. ^ Kanag-Isvaran, K. The Thiruchelvam I Knew at (website in tribute to) Senator M Tiruchelvam QC, 9 February 2008
  10. ^ Sri Lanka Law Reports Vivienne Goonewardene v Hector Perera and others Archived 2013-07-03 at Archive.today
  11. ^ Hoole, Rajan. Taming the Judiciary and the Legacy of the 1982 Referendum in Sri Lanka: The Arrogance of Power - Myths, Decadence & Murder. University Teachers for Human Rights, at uthr.org, 2001.

See alsoEdit