By Sir Satcam Boolell Q.C
As a lawyer, Seeneevassen was outstanding not so much on account of his knowledge of the law but because of some natural gifts which marked him out of the rest of his colleagues. If there is a word which can sum up his qualities, it is "elegant". He was elegant to the core of his personality. Even his inseparable tin of Players assumed a certain style in his hand.
He had the necessary make up for a successful Barrister. Nothing in him was calculated or preconceived. His elegant manner, his style, his suave speech and wittiness were so many natural gifts.
His contribution to our jurisprudence may not have been immense. But some of the important cases in which he appeared are a mine of information to the junior Barrister. He had a juridical mind which claimed the respect of both the Bench and the Bar. His submission on a point of law retained careful attention. He might not always be right. But the clarity and the force of his arguments compelled scrutiny. The Mauritius reports of the past fifteen years give a full measure of his contribution which is not insignificant.
Seeneevassen was an accomplished master of the art of advocacy. His arguments were so persuasive that he could turn any damning piece of evidence against his client in his favour. He would not twist or misrepresent the facts. But he had a gift of bringing out into prominence that part of the case which told in his favour and gloss over the rest. His opponents were always afraid of letting him address the Court last. He could work such havoc on their case.
Seeneevassen was at his best in the Assize cases. He was one of those few brilliant orators who could sweep the jury off their feet with the magic of his words. After his address to the jury it was difficult for his opponent to command the same attention.
As every good Barrister, Seeneevassen was not always winning his cases. Alive to the nobleness of his profession he was not so much concerned with the ultimate issue of a case as to the conscientious manner in which he discharged his duties towards his client. Not all cases can be won otherwise crime would go unpunished. His advice to his young colleagues, who often felt dejected when after a brilliant speech their client was nevertheless convicted, was that the Bench, the Bar and the Police had a common duty to perform viz; to find out the truth and mete out justice accordingly.
Seeneevassen used to tell of his experience of his early days at the Bar. One day he appeared for a client charged with larceny with breaking before a bench of Magistrates. He fought tooth and nail to secure an acquittal. Unfortunately, his client was sentenced to 12 months' hard labour. Seeneevassen almost cried. He thought that there had been a miscarriage of justice so convinced was he of the innocence of his client. One of the Magistrates, an ageing man with a long standing on the Bench came to him and seeing him completely depressed and his eyes swollen red patted him on the back: "You did marvellously well Seeneevassen. But the evidence against your client was damning. We had no choice." Seeneevassen thought of an appeal. With some hesitation he went to see his client who was already behind bars. Before he had the time to express any regret the prisoner with a broad smile thanked him and said that if it had not been for his able defence he would have got 3 years as he had expected. Then the prisoner told him the true story, compared to which the Police version was a very mild one.
Renga is no more. Mauritius is bereft of one of his most illustrious sons. Inexorable fate has struck a cruel blow. But the memory of Seeneevassen will go down to posterity as a model of magnanimity