Musings On The Constitution-VII Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan

Musings On The Constitution-VII
Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan

Sir Alladi Krishnaswami Iyer

What does one write about Dewan Bahadur Sir Alladi Krishnaswamy Ayyar? The term ‘colossus’ is bandied about too easily like ‘super’, ‘awesome’ and ‘icon’ these days. It belongs to a select few .As a Judge mailed, “ How is it that all these greats lived together in one era, all together, leaving little chance for us to have the benefit of at least a select few”. Imagine this, Saint Tyagaraja, Muthusamy Dikshithar and Syama Sastri, called The Trinity, were contemporaries. How cruel of fate and nature to park them all in the same timeline. VKT Chari, the venerable Senior Advocate and former Advocate general, once told me, “Alladi must have felt so insecure sitting and standing all alone at the top”.

Tough it may be, the Covid-19 times seems to have afforded the time, space and ‘impertinent idiocy’ as Justice Cardozo once called such efforts to go this word path. Is there anything new to be said on the old man? Everything anyone could say appears to have said not once but by many and many times. But they lie so scattered and forgotten Let us be honest and real. We may have time on our hands, feet, body, mind and soul now. We are in the midst of being bombarded by SMSs, WhatsApps, FaceBook posts, Instagrams, Twitter feeds, not to talk of the E mail et al. But our attention span has all shrunk like Donald J Trump’s- less than 2 minutes flat with the intellectual faculty of an eighth grader in search of instant gratification– as a Havard Professor put it recently. To attract and retain the attention span on such intellectually stimulating exercises, is a tough call. Who cares about our Constitution? Who cares for our founders? What is in it for us?

I do. Everything. Or so, one can immodestly claim. For there is history, geography, literature, science, art, paintings, beauty, philosophy, psychology, political and social constructs, besides law and more, Constitution and Constitutional history encompass within itself. The Making of The Constitution was not making words or chiselling them to form the Articles. It was the making Of the Soul of India, of the then, now, and ever. It was a document lovingly and passionately put together and crafted with care, for We The People, to last forever. Sir Alladi Krishnaswamy Ayyar, was among the foremost of the artists.

Dr. B. R. Ambedkar

Dr.B R Ambedkar has rightly been called the father of Indian Constitution. Tomes and Tomes have been penned on him and his works. He ‘happened to the the Chairman of the Drafting Committee’, as he called himself. Why? Read what Babbasaheb said in his concluding speech of the Constituent Assembly, on Sir Alladi. “I am glad to find that with the exception of a solitary member, there is a general consensus of appreciation from the members of the Constituent Assembly of the work done by the Drafting Committee. I am sure the Drafting Committee feels happy to find this spontaneous recognition of its labours expressed in such generous terms. As to the compliments that have been showered upon me both by the members of the Assembly as well as by my colleagues of the Drafting Committee I feel so overwhelmed that I cannot find adequate words to express fully my gratitude to them. I came into the Constituent Assembly with no greater aspiration than to safeguard the interests of the Scheduled Castes. I had not the remotest idea that I would be called upon to undertake more responsible functions. I was therefore greatly surprised when the Assembly elected me to the Drafting Committee. I was more than surprised when the Drafting Committee elected me to be its Chairman. There were in the Drafting Committee men bigger, better and more competent than myself such as my friend Sir Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar. I am grateful to the Constituent Assembly and the Drafting Committee for reposing in me so much trust and confidence and to have chosen me as their instrument and given me this opportunity of serving the country.” (Cheers). This is part of the final speech of Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar, in the Constituent Assembly as recorded.

It may make little sense to talk further on Sir Alladi after this praise from the Brahmarishi Vasishtar himself. But, enamoured by the actors, in this constitutional drama and emboldened by indulgent impertinence, I go beyond.

Now read what Dr.Pattabhi Sitaramayya said about Alladi: “Then there was Sir Alladi, with his oceanic depths of learning, and a whole knowledge of the Constitutional Law of the world on his finger tips. He has made great contributions towards the drawing up of this Constitution. He only has to perfect it all by writing a commentary upon it. That was the latest request of Mr.K. Santhanam to him and I hope he will fulfil it.”

Every time, we get to step into the portals of this legacy structure or hallowed precincts, as lawyers or otherwise, let us bear in mind that Sir Alladi Krishnaswamy Ayyar bestrode those very steps and sat on those very chairs and used the very tables, we are now privy to, as a product of the Madras High Court Bar (then Madras- forget not inclusive of Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh too). If that be not inspirational, nothing else can ever be.

Madras High Court At Twilight

Today, we need to light it up. Alladi & Co electrified it with their mere presence. The Alladis burnt the midnight oil so that we may have a Republic of the, for and by the proverbial common man.

For the first time, an Advocate-General of the Madras Government was Knighted. People wondered why. But there was no mystery really. The Government had rewarded him for signal services he had done them in the province of pure law. It is undeniable that the Indian Sale of Goods Act and the Indian Partnership Act bear the impress of Sir Alladi’s intellect and vast legal experience. One could imagine the other members of the special committee, presided over by Sir Brojendra Mitter, looking askance at the unimpressive Madrasee lawyer, and almost unconscious of him, arriving at conclusions with a curious inconsequence. Sir B. L. Mitter, courteous and genial, smiling, delightful, contagiously optimistic, but not so very profound, also very subtle in matters of law, Sir B. L. Mitter and his colleagues (The Indian Partnership Act of 1932 (Partnership Act) was the result of a Report of a Special Committee consisting of Shri Brojender Lal Mitter, Sir Dinshaw Mulla, Sir Alladi Krishnaswami Iyer and Sir Arthur Eggar) who have all but given the finishing touches to the draft, are a little taken aback to find that the Madrasee lawyer wishes to….


(Author is practising advocate in the Madras High Court)

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