A New Zealand judge has been honoured in India.
Manukau District Court Judge Ajit Swaran Singh was presented with the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award on 9 January 2008. He travelled to India to receive the award from the President of India, Pratibha Devisingh Patil, who is also a lawyer.
The honour was awarded to acknowledge Judge Singh's public service achievements and his contribution to law and society, as well as for promoting the honour and prestige of India and fostering the interests of overseas Indians.
Judge Singh was appointed to the District Court bench in November 2002. He had come to New Zealand in 1987 from Fiji where he had been deputy and acting Solicitor-General. After arriving in this country, he joined Simpson Grierson as a senior staff solicitor.
In 1990, he became a partner in the Wellington firm Macalister Mazengarb Perry Castle (as it was then), practising in Auckland and South Auckland in commercial and criminal law, medico-legal work and immigration/refugee cases.
He served on both the NZLS and Auckland District Law Society Councils and on the criminal law committees of both societies.
The Pravasi Bharatiya Samman is an award constituted by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs in conjunction with India's non-resident Indian Day (Pravasi Bharatiya Divas) to honour exceptional and meritorious contribution in the recipients' chosen fields or professions.
In Judge Singh's case, his services have included providing pro bono legal advice to various community, social, religious and senior citizens groups, and he served for a number of years at the Mt Roskill Citizens Advice Bureau. He has also been a motivational speaker at community events.
As well as engaging Indian lawyers with a view to encouraging them to participate in community projects, Judge Singh has worked towards motivating the Indian community to engage in the criminal justice system with a view to providing and facilitating counselling and a venue for restorative justice and social interaction of senior citizens and youth.
He also regularly consults with the Indian High Commissioner and Indian community leaders on issues of concern in New Zealand's Indian community and in the wider New Zealand society.
Judge Singh was one of 12 to receive the award in 2008. The only other New Zealander to receive this award has been former Dunedin Mayor Sukhi Turner, in 2004.
Judge Singh receiving his award from India's President Pratibha Devisingh Patil (left).
This article appeared in LawTalk 703, 3 March 2008, page 5.