Musings On The Constitution- VIII Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan

Musings On The Constitution- VIII
Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan

Sir Alladi Krishnaswami Iyer

Sir B. L. Mitter and his colleagues who had all but given the finishing touches to the draft, are a little taken aback to find that the Madrasee lawyer wishes to say something. In fact, the Madras Advocate-General has a good deal to say. The draft is all wrong; it is a house of cards; it wouldn’t stand the rough test of experience; it would break in actual life. There is no mistaking Alladi’s meaning. They all think it over: why, it is all true, Mr. Krishnaswami Aiyar is free to propose his suggestions. They will be accepted, and so they are offered unassumingly nevertheless confidently, and they are accepted and incorporated as tangible provisions in the fabric of law. Some such thing may have happened (it is pure speculation) before the Simla Gods and their Southern Satellites decided to confer upon Alladi Krishnaswami Iyer a Knighthood.

Praise be to Alladi, fine. But, how did he himself perceive his role as a member of the ‘Holy Drafting Committee’ as he alluded to it. ”As a member of the Drafting Committee, in spite of my indifferent health, I took a fairly active part in several of its meetings prior to the publication of the Draft Constitution and sent up notes and suggestions for the consideration of my colleagues even when I was unable to attend its meetings. Subsequent to the publication of the draft, for reasons of health, I could not take part in any of its deliberations and I can claim no credit for the suggestion as to the modification of the draft” (see Vol. 7, Constituent Assembly Debates, p. 334 to 337).

Continuing in the same vein, he added for emphasis, as if it was necessary for the assembled patriots, “What is important is that at this session we must be in a position to proclaim to our people and to the civilised world what we are after. It has to be remembered that the main object of this Assembly is not the fashioning of a constitution of a Local Board, a District Board of making changes in the present constitution of this or that part of the country, but to give concrete expression to the surging aspirations of a people yearning for freedom by framing a constitution for a free and independent India, for the good of the people, one and all, of this great and historic land, irrespective of caste, class, community or creed, with a hoary civilisation going back to several centuries. More than any argument, as the resolution before the House has received the blessings and support of Mahatma Gandhi, the architect of India’s political destiny, from the distant village in Eastern Bengal, I trust that it will be carried with acclamation by the whole house without dissent.”

What did Alladi think of the role of a lawyer in society. That may be significant for he lived and showed it. As Justice V R Krishna Iyer said, “Alladi did not mouth platitudes as most do. Like Lord Ram he was an avatar born to show what he said and meant.” Quoting Lord Haldane’s wise and tranquil words “We want a new type of lawyer”, with approval Sir Alladi said in an address of his at the Mayavaram Bar Association, “We have developed only the critical acumen. The constructive side is hardly developed. Hereafter, lawyers will have to take interest in the man in the street, in the poor, and in the economic regeneration and political salvation of the country. Otherwise, they will go to the wall. A new outlook has to be developed by the lawyer, a new out1ok in respect 8 of property and recognition of the changes in society. The relationship between the sexes, between master and servant, and employer and employee, and conceptions of citizenship, are undergoing a metamorphsis. In all these changes the lawyer has to play a prominent part with a new vision, a new outlook”

K R Srinivasa Iyengar, author and former Vice-Chancellor of Andhra University said in a lecture- Watch Sir Alladi rather in the vivid animation of an argument in process in the gorgeous environment of the High Court; the spasmodic articulations, the pertinent gestures, the gutteral accents incredibly galvanised into a gymnastic fired into a superior life, the queer subtleties and delicacies of law shaped on the anvil of cogent case-law; the fairly even flow of argument struggling amidst the zigzags of the opponent’s interruptions and the judge’ s interpellations; the whole court hall, seniors and juniors, apprentices and clerks, truant law students and vagrant journalists, witnesses with troubled conscience and litigants with uncertain expectations, the whole motley crowd, half understanding, half thrilled with a sense of the exotic, and so standing, as if petrified by magic; and Sir Alladi, with his small head and loose gown, the left hand carefully supporting the massive part of a bulky volume and the fingers of the right hand somehow expressively busy, and the cataract of words sounding impetuously, at times even explosively – and now the true observer has some materials to picture Sir Alladi’s personality as it radiates its influence in the High Court buildings and sheds its reflected glory on the horizon of law.

As my Senior S.Sampathkumaar often went nostalgic ‘Walking on the steps of this temple and going around the court halls- we only have this heritage building as proof of the presence of these giants. They were real and live then. If the walls and murals adorning the corridors could talk, they may play the divine music it once heard. Now, you and I make a lot of noise in the name of law and add what the bench is capable of , it is one hell of an Abaswaram that may make the presiding deity Blind Lady of Justice wonder why she was not deaf too”.

Alladi was a voracious reader of books on politics and political philosophy and biography, besides those on legal topics in every branch of law, including public International Law. In later years, particularly after the Government of India Act of 193S came into force, and the Federal Court was set up, he specialised in the study of Constitutional Law of the Dominions and of the U. S. A. and acquired a deep and accurate knowledge which he utilised in the service of his country as a member of the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly. Sir Alladi was the Advocate-General of Madras for a fairly long 17 years and left an indelible stamp on the very office. “And they were Advocates who Generally never toed the political party or government lines, as they did not owe their office to those in power” ,as Justice V R Krishna Iyer taunted the rest.

We have heard this said about Nani Palkhivala, K.Parasaran, Fali S.Nariman and more. What a pity! Now read what Justice N.Rajaopala Ayyangar said of Alladi, “ More than once in the Twenties of this century, a place on the High Court Bench was offered to him but he declined the offer since, apart from ether considerations, he felt that his talents were more suited to the Bar than to the Bench. I believe, I am not disclosing any secret when I say that when the Federal Court was established, he was inclined to accept a Judgeship of that Court and he felt some little disappointment that though his name was mentioned as a probable choice even by English legal journalists, the offer was not made.- “Alladi was destined to be a lawyer and that was India’s good fortune” said C.Rajagopalachari.

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……


(Author is practising Advocate in the Madras High Court)

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