“Justice is justly represented blind,” wrote William Penn, arguably America’s first great champion for liberty and peace, “because she sees no difference in the parties concerned. She has but one scale and weight, for rich and poor, great and small. Her sentence is not guided by the person but the cause. Impartiality is the life of justice, as that is of government.”
These words of wisdom continue to determine and dominate the judiciary, undaunted by the challenges heralded by socio-economic and political changes in the free world.
The growth and development of democratic principles, the increasing extent of freedom of speech and expression augmented by the state-of-the-art technology and other developments have placed pressure on the system and mechanism of political governance but it is to the credit of our judiciary that it has remained uninfluenced by changing values in the society.
Legal interpretations may differ but dispensation of justice has always been fair, fearless and most important of all, conforming to the laws of the land. While the first two branches of government, namely the legislature and the executive, may be subject to political windfalls or shortcomings, the judicial machinery has remained at the pinnacle to which it belongs.
An elite group
It is to such an elite group of dispensers of justice that Dr Ajit Swaran Singh was appointed (as a Judge of the Manukau District Court) on November 4, 2002.
The appointment was a just recognition of talent, legal acumen, integrity, impartiality and ability to dispassionately dispense justice-qualities that sublimate the personality of a Judge.
Call it a happy coincidence, preordained tryst or blessing, a string of events have augured well in his life. The day he was officially admitted to the District Court Bench-the day he was administered oath of office as a judge-was the most auspicious in the Hindu calendar. It was the day of ‘Diwali,’ the Festival of Lights, which symbolises the triumph of truth and the dawn of a New Year for a segment of the Indian community and hence beginning of new hope.
Such a happy combination of facts also ruled a month earlier (October 11, 2002), when his eldest daughter Anjeet was admitted to the New Zealand High Court as a Barrister and Solicitor-the day when he commemorated the anniversary of his arrival in the country 15 years earlier.
His peers, admirers, well-wishers and colleagues have called him a modest man who goes about his business with thoroughness and with a penchant for fairness, all of which can be attributed to the qualities that he imbibed from the members of his illustrious family.
Born and raised in a family that has a firm faith in traditional values in Fiji, Dr Singh’s proclivities towards the legal profession were evident even during his formative years.
His father, the late Sardar Swaran Singh (an active politician who rose to become the President of the National Federation Party in Labasa), his mother Pritam Kaur (who lives in Auckland) and his uncles, the late Hon Sarvan Singh, a leading lawyer and Member of Parliament in Fiji, Sardar Laskhar Singh of Vancouver, Canada and the members of his large, extended family in Auckland were among those who exercised a strong influence in his life.
Judge Singh acquired various qualifications-LLB and LLM (Honours) from Wellington’s Victoria University, Doctor of Civil Law from the Institute of Comparative Law from Canada’s McGill University in Montreal (obtained under the Canadian Government Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship) and Diploma in Advanced Litigation Skills from the New Zealand Law Society-to mention a few. His other qualifications include positions as Notary Public in Fiji and New Zealand, seminars and workshops in the Philippines and Malaysia and much more.
Launching his career in Fiji in 1976 as barrister and solicitor at Ramrakhas, a major legal firm in Fiji, he became a Crown Solicitor (litigation), an office which he held for four years until 1986 before assuming charge as Deputy Solicitor General. He was also Acting Solicitor General of Fiji prior to his arrival in New Zealand. His role as a part time lecturer in commercial law and corporate and taxation law and general instructor at the Fiji School of Medicine helped him to gain wider academic knowledge on various issues of law including medical jurisprudence and ethics. He also served on the boards and committees of many other organisations.
His career in New Zealand has also been punctuated by several achievements and credits and his active legal life have seen him rise from one level of legal expertise to another.
Beginning with his role as Senior Staff Solicitor at Simpson Grierson, a major Auckland firm, he worked his way up with diligence, devotion and dedication, adorning a number of positions including status as a partner in Macalister Mazengarb Perry Castle, a leading medico-legal firm.
These also include establishment of his own practice as Barrister, Notary Public, Youth advocate and District Inspector.
Recounting Judge Singh’s formative years in Fiji, Kantilal Parshotam, founder of Parshotam & Co in Fiji and New Zealand said: “In those days of humble beginning and modest habits, Judge Singh showed signs of high achievements in the years to come. His move to New Zealand in 1987 was a gain to this country and a loss to Fiji.”
In more ways than one, Judge Singh’s life and career should be a source of inspiration for the younger members of the society who often stand at cross roads. His thoughts on the youth are not only enlightening but also energising.
As in the case of most successful men around the world, Dr Singh’s life has been sublimated by his wife Subhag (a school teacher) who has ‘lit his path every step of the way’ extending her love, guidance, support and care, a fact which he is happy to acknowledge both in private and public.
From the speech that he rendered following the swearing-in ceremony to one-to-one conversation, he speaks of his good fortune in having earned a life partner who understands and appreciates good values in life. It is often said, ‘A good wife makes a good husband’ and there is no greater personification than it is here.
The Singhs have sired three children, each of whom is proving to be the chip of the old block, bringing joy and pride every single day of their lives- daughters Anjeet and Shobita and son Amit.
Indubitably, Judge Singh is a not only a torch bearer for his own community, the community of judges and people of his origin but is also a man of erudition, fellowship and a role model for the ensuing generations. His thoughts and beliefs are embedded in values that must be upheld.
Beyond all those pathos, an orderly and peaceful life is a part of his daily menu. And at every call of his duty, he would strive to embody what the great Greek philosopher Socrates saw in a good judge:
To hear courteously
To answer wisely
To consider soberly and
To decide impartially
1. Dr Singh’s father, the late Sardar Swaran Singh
2. Inspiring uncle- the late Sardar Sarvan Singh
3. The mentor- Sardar Laskhar Singh, who lives in Vancouver, Canada