Musings On The Constitution-IX Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan

Musings On The Constitution-IX
Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan

Possibly nothing could illustrate better the effect that Sir Alladi produced on the court than the following incident. Sir Alladi was in Delhi arguing a case in the Federal Court before a Bench headed by Sir Maurice Gwyer, the Chief Justice of India. Sir Alladi had finished his speech by lunch. Sir John Simon had come to Delhi and was expected to visit the Court during its sitting in the afternoon. During the luncheon interval, Sir Maurice Gwyer sent for Sir Alladi and requested him to continue his arguments during the afternoon also as he desired that Sir John Simon should have an opportunity of listening to him. The same thing occurred in Madras. Sir Lionel Leach requested Sir Alladi to commence arguments in a case in which he appeared was lower down in the cause list 3 when Sir John Simon visited Madras during the same trip to India.

Justice N. Rajagopala Ayyangar was not finished with Sir Alladi, ´ Sir Alladi’s capacity for clear thinking gave him the assertive impulse; the commendable tact he had for judicious reiteration enabled him to ever steer clear of the dreary precincts of boredom. If the lawyer’s elemental passion for incessant intellectual exercises crystallises, even ordinary addresses turn into models of logical reasoning and sparkling exposition, platitude is absent, verbiage has no place, everything is reduced to clause and sub-clause, theorems and corollaries. Humanity is comprehended in a formula, God snugly fits into a definition. Such an intellectual satisfaction convincing in its ceaseless flow, and advocacy at its sharpest, blended in the phenomenal brain of this renowned lawyer. His memory was a marvel of jural chemistry. The scholarship that this human wonder stored in his head, even when but a young lawyer, reminds me of Goldsmith’s lines: “And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew, that one small head could carry all he knew.”

Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer

How can we omit the flowing poetical prose of Justice V R Krishna Iyer , who had seen and heard Sir Alladi in action, when he was a student of the Madras Law College. “What amazed me was no so much his habitual forensic fusillade, citing ruling after ruling, which earned him the esteem of the Bench and the Bar alike, and the Advocate General’s high office for 17 long years, but the facility with which he could hammer home any legal point in any branch of jurisprudence. I have while a student watched with astonishment this lawyer arguing with confidence and emphasis before stern and awesome judges, Indian and European, since the best legal education was listening to Alladi and his opponent as the ’submissions’ rose to a crescendo, and the battle of wits, precedent against precedent, subtlety against subtlety, and suspense in the Court Hall, thrilled the gathering. Why were we enthralled? Not because his voice was soft or sweet, nor because as now sometimes ’sound and fury’ drowned the proceedings, but because his arguments were compelling, and his propositions impeccable.”

“Long ago, I assessed Sir Alladi in words which I still regard as moderate: He was a living legend as the ablest lawyer, a professional wonder, a Constitution-maker, and an authentic embodiment of jurisprudential versatility. He was a statesman among jurists and a jurist among statesmen. An impressive component of this jurist’s public-spirited commitment and constitutional erudition has not received praise, lost as his admirers are in the dazzle of his career at the Bar, and the quantum of his jurisprudential contribution as a member par-excellence of the Constitution of India. Let me mention that as early as the Twenties, Alladi had displayed a remarkable grasp of constitutional law. In those days, even leaders in the profession and academics had no grasp of IndoAnglican constitutionalism since there was not much time for such punditry. What does not pay has no attraction for the legal or teaching community. And yet, some rare avis may still be found with profound juristic passion to master even abstruse branches of law like constitutional developments and legislative competence. Alladi Krishnaswami Iyer was one of those few Indian erudites whose intellectual curiosity chased him into various uncommon areas, ordinarily not the cup of tea of the common run of lawyers. Imagine a legislative bill, the Religious Endowments Bill of 1926, and its statutory predecessor of 1924 being scanned by Alladi way back in 1924 or 26 with the constitutional wisdom and thoroughness of a jurist of 1995.”

“When Alladi found a bill which he thought suffered from infirmities, he took upon himself to analyse every part, test the legality and policy of the law, and with confident competence, pronounce on the validity and wisdom of the legislative essay with the refreshing sharpness and sure familiarity of a first-rate constitutional scholar. How skillful the surgery, how deep the study, how expert the advice that this jurist presented in two articles in the Madras Law Journal in 1924 and 26. What extraordinary spectrum of interests in law’s wide spaces he probed! And that, not because he is briefed, but since he considered it his public duty to warn and educate governments and people when bad law was promulgated.When the history of India and the part played by jurist statesmen in shaping the Constitution come to be written, Alladi will occupy a high place as one who moulded and defended the federalism and fundamental freedoms the Founding Deed enwombs.”

And to those who mattered, the Judges, how was Sir Alladi perceived. Read the take of the legendary Chief Justice P V Rajamannar, Chief Justice Rajamannar in a matchless obituary reference said: ”Alladi Krishnaswami Iyer was supreme as an advocate. His advocacy was of the highest order, powerful, selective, and vivid. He was never long winded. He never over stated a case. But he was so powerful in his advocacy that, if he had a strong point, he presented it in such a way that the judges would feel that their reputation would be at stake if they decided against him. His intellect was keen, penetrating, and resilient, and his memory was something phenomenal”

To show how he easily impressed both seniors in the profession and the judges of the High Court, one telling instance may be…..


(Author is practising advocate in the Madras High Court)

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