Shyam Gyanda: A no-nonsense judge with a soft heart

Judge Shyam Gyanda was appointed as a Judge of the High Court on February 1, 2001.

Judge Shyam Gyanda was appointed as a Judge of the High Court on February 1, 2001.

Published Jun 24, 2024


By Rajesh Choudree

RESPECTED retired judge, Shyam Gyanda, of Varsity Drive, died at his Durban home on Monday after a short illness. He was 69.

Gyanda matriculated at Sastri College in Durban in 1971. He attended the University of Durban-Westville where he graduated with BA and LLB degrees.

At university, he and Achmad Jappie, who later became the KwaZulu-Natal High Court Judge President, had commenced their academic careers together and both started in practice as advocates around the same time.

Judge Gyanda was a colleague of retired Judge Zak Yacoob at the Bar. Yacoob later became a Constitutional Court Justice and served as one of Gyanda’s mentors.

Judge Gyanda appeared as an advocate in many leading cases and also delivered several judgments reported in the law reports. He was also a member of the Special Investigating Unit of the Heath Commission probing cases of corruption, fraud and maladministration in the Eastern Cape, set up in 1995.

I practise as a senior counsel at the Durban Bar as a member of Advocates Group 7 to which Judge Gyanda belonged as an advocate in the late ’70s.

Judge Gyanda literally climbed from humble origins to join the Durban Bar as an advocate, and rose through the ranks becoming a senior counsel shortly after which he was appointed a judge of the High Court in KZN.

He was a no-nonsense judge but with a soft heart. He was a son of the soil and possessed a deep understanding of human nature. Judge Gyanda presided over many well-known cases in his judicial career, notably that of the Lotter siblings, who faced charges relating to the murder of their parents.

Judge Gyanda was among the early group of lawyers, who ventured to the Eastern and Northern Cape between 1985 and 1987, representing clients during unrest in those areas. Numerous tributes have been paid to him from lawyers across the country, many attesting to his legal acumen and courteous nature.

He took a practical approach to dealing with difficult matters. Like many of us, he also practised during the apartheid era and was unfazed by the prejudices often encountered. Despite the odds, he rose above them and was a successful lawyer and highly-respected judge.

In addition, Judge Gyanda was a keen footballer and a member of several religious organisations, mainly centred in Clare Estate where he was born.

He was raised at the family home in

Elf Place. His father was a pioneer in the field of primary education, as were two of his late siblings. His mother, a homemaker, was also a social worker in the Clare Estate community, assisting the elderly with pensions and social services.

Judge Gyanda would have turned 70 in September. I express our condolences to his family on behalf of his friends and colleagues and regret that he had not spent more time in his retirement.

He is survived by his wife Shireen Gyanda, his daughters Kajal and Alka and son Sahil.

His funeral was held at the Clare Estate Crematorium on Wednesday.