Mark Fernando
Justice Mark Damien Hugh Fernando (27 February, 1941 – 20 January, 2009) was a jurist
A jurist or jurisconsult is a professional who studies, develops, applies, or otherwise deals with the law. The term is widely used in American English, but in the United Kingdom and many Commonwealth countries it has only historical and specialist usage...

 and former judge of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka
Supreme Court of Sri Lanka
The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka is the highest court of the nation of Sri Lanka. The Supreme Court is the highest and final judicial instance of record and is empowered to exercise its powers, subject to the provisions of the Constitution. The Court has ultimate appellate jurisdiction in...

. He died after a long bout with cancer on 20 January 2009.

Education and early career

Fernando was born in a family with a long judicial tradition on 27 February 1941. His father was former Chief Justice H. N. G. Fernando and his grandfather, Judge W. M. Fernando also sat on the Supreme Court. He schooled at St. Joseph's College, Colombo 10
St. Joseph's College, Colombo
St. Joseph's College is a Catholic educational institution in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It was established in 1896 by French missionaries, with Rev Christopher Ernst Bonjean playing a leading role. The college has over 4000 students with a staff of over 200...

, and attended the University of Ceylon at Peradeniya
University of Peradeniya
The University of Peradeniya is a world renowned state university in Sri Lanka, funded by the University Grants Commission...

. He took his oaths as an advocate of the Supreme Court in July 1963. Fernando first worked in the chambers of H. W. Jayawardene
Hector Wilfred Jayewardene
Hector Wilfred Jayewardene, QC was a prominent Sri Lankan lawyer. In 1979 he was chairman of a UNESCO conference on human rights in Bangkok and later chairman of the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute...

, QC. He shone as an advocate and was conferred Silk in January 1985. He was known to have been one of the lawyers who drafted the 1978 Constitution of President Junius Richard Jayewardene
Junius Richard Jayewardene
Junius Richard Jayewardene , famously abbreviated in Sri Lanka as JR, was the first executive President of Sri Lanka, serving from 1978 till 1989. He was a leader of the nationalist movement in Ceylon who served in a variety of cabinet positions in the decades following independence...



Fernando and his wife Pam had three children, a daughter Tanya, and two sons Sohan and Suren.

Human rights defender

Fernando was responsible for delivering many judgments during his career, that upheld the rights of citizens in respect of the right to vote, the right to freedom of speech and the right to freedom against torture and arbitrary arrest and detention.


In 2005, Fernando opted to take premature retirement from the Supreme Court, two and half years before his term ended. He was then the longest serving judge on the bench.

Towards the end of his career, Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva
Sarath N. Silva
Sarath Nanda Silva PC is a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka.He obtained his Primary and Secondary school education at Trinity College Kandy and continued to Sri Lanka Law College. Prior to civil service, his achievements included work obtaining a Master of Laws degree Magna...

had excluded him from hearings relating to the constitutionality of bills before the Parliament.

A massive signature campaign was launched to persuade Fernando to stay on to complete his term. Signatories covered a wide range of the political spectrum, lawyers and law students as well as the ecclesiastical heads of the Buddhist, Catholic, Anglican and Methodist denominations.
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