Retired Judge Shyam Gyanda remembered

Judge Shyam Gyanda.

Judge Shyam Gyanda.

Published Jun 23, 2024


Durban — Retired Judge Shyam Gyanda has been remembered for his courage, diligence and sense of humour and as a valued member of the Bench.

Justice Gyanda died on Monday at the age of 69.

KwaZulu-Natal Judge President Thoba Poyo-Dlwati, said Gyanda was a valued member of the Bench, a trusted colleague and a friend to all.

“Both at the Bar and on the Bench, in addition to sound advice, he always had a kind word and a smile for all who sought his counsel and guidance, and if the occasion permitted it, a joke, sometimes naughty and sometimes wicked, would be added,” said Justice Poyo-Dlwati.

Judge Gyanda graduated from the then-University of Durban-Westville in 1978 with BA and LLB degrees.

He joined the Durban Bar, served pupillage under Peter Gastrow, and was one of the founding members of Advocates Group 7 at Salmon Grove Chambers.

He had a wide and thriving practice as an advocate and also served as a member of the Heath Investigative Unit.

After a few stints as an acting judge in the Eastern Cape and KZN, he was appointed permanently to the KZN Bench in 2001.

Justice Poyo-Dlwati said Judge Gyanda discharged his duties with courage and diligence.

“Sadly, failing health persuaded Judge Gyanda to seek release a little earlier than he would have liked, and he retired on May 31, 2020. We remember our brother with fondness,” said Justice Poyo-Dlwati.

Retired Judge Thumba Pillay said he had the good fortune of knowing Judge Gyanda throughout his legal career and latterly as a colleague on the Bench.

“We occupied almost adjoining chambers in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court, making daily chit-chats almost a daily routine,” Justice Pillay said.

“In the early years, which goes back to a conservative 40-odd years, he distinguished himself as an advocate who unhesitatingly defended a number of political activists, mostly from the Eastern Cape, who faced a variety of charges under the notorious apartheid laws.

“Such cases were held far and wide, well outside the jurisdiction of what was then Natal. Many of his colleagues of the day recollect with fascination and discernment of their experiences of having to cope with all that apartheid had to throw at them, not confined to just the plethora of security legislation, but by and large a hostile and unsympathetic Bench.

“It was hard work which practitioners of the time will confirm,” said Justice Pillay.

He said Judge Gyanda, popularly known as Sham, was no pushover and was known to stand his ground.

“During our time as colleagues on the Natal Bench, on occasions sitting as judges on appeals, reviews, and such like matters, it was always with a sense of collegiality, deeply conscious of the task entrusted to us as judges.

“He also served on various commissions, again with a deep sense of justice and commitment to the task at hand,” Justice Pillay said.

He said apart from shared experience as practitioners and judges, they were friends.

“I enjoyed his sense of humour and camaraderie. Unfortunately, of late, he was dogged by ill health. There are just a few among his close circle of friends who were privy to the hurdles he had bravely and determinedly overcome in his earliest years to rise to such heights in the legal profession. It was no mean achievement.

“He was much admired by fellow judges, forever helpful with a wonderful sense of humour. He brooked no nonsense despite his friendly disposition and a gifted sense of humour.”

Judge Navi Pillay said Gyanda was a colleague who was highly respected.

“We first started as attorneys in practice. I knew him well and he had a good reputation. He was a credit to the legal and judicial profession,” she said.

Judge Gyanda's funeral took place at the Clare Estate Crematorium on Wednesday. He is survived by his wife Shireen and children Kajal, Sahil and Alka.

Sunday Tribune