Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Hi Friends,

This post is Part 1 of an article I wrote for Namma Chennai on the above subject.

Many doyens of the legal profession have walked the corridors of the Madras High Court. This article profiles a few prominent lawyers and judges who have left a mark on the city thanks not only to their success in the field of law but also to the various social causes they were involved in.

Mention Englishmen in the Madras Bar and the first names that come readily to one’s mind are that of the Nortons. Eardley Norton was one of the best known lawyers in Madras in his time and was one of the founders of the Indian National Congress. His son John Norton was also a distinguished lawyer, while their kinsman George Norton, again a lawyer, led a public petition that led to the formation of the Madras University. He was also instrumental in his capacity as the Advocate General of Madras in providing a direction for Pachaiyappa Mudaliar’s will that formed the nucleus for the Pachaiyappa’s group of institutions. Norton Street in Mandaveli today commemorates the family of Nortons.

Justice H.T.Boddam was another prominent Englishman to be involved in the Madras Bar. Appointed judge in 1896, he gained notoriety for being partial to some of his favourites and for allegedly deciding cases without an impartial hearing. This obviously benefited sections of the public more than it did others. On his death in 1910, many of his beneficiaries jointly funded the construction of a statue in his honour that was installed at the junction of Pallavan Salai and Mount Road. It was one of the first statues to be removed after Independence and today, it stands at the May Day park in Chintadripet. It is to him however that credit should go for being instrumental in the setting up in 1906 of the Madras Pinjrapole in Aynavaram, an old age home for cattle that functions even today. He served as its first president.

The credit for bringing out the finest treatise on Hindu Law should go to J.D. Maynes, who came to Madras in 1857 from England to practice as a barrister. He later became the Advocate General of Madras. In 1914, he authored a book titled A Treatise on Hindu Law and Usages, a book that is considered the last word on the subject.

Other venerable English names include that of Nugent Grant, Sir Victor Murray Coutts Trotter, Sir Lionel Reach etc., all of whom dealt with several landmark cases as lawyers and judges and were associated with the higher echelons of the society.

Sir T. Muthuswami Iyer was the first Indian to be appointed a judge of the Madras High Court. He was appointed to this exalted position in 1878, having made his way to the top from District Munsiff to District and Sessions Judge. His appointment naturally caused a lot of resentment amongst the Englishmen. He however distinguished himself in a great manner. A statue of his, adorns the Madras High Court even today.

V. Krishnaswamy Iyer was probably one of the biggest names amongst the Indians in the Madras High Court. He apprenticed under R. Balaji Roa, one of the leaders of the Madras Bar and enrolled as a vakil in 1885. He was involved in a number of important cases, most notable amongst them being the Arbuthnot Bank crash case in 1906. He was appointed judge in 1909, a tenure that lasted for hardly a year. He was invited to join the Governor’s Executive Council in 1911, where again he was to be for less than a year, for he passed away in December that year at the age of 48 in rather unfortunate circumstances. He had been called upon to attend the Grand Coronation Durbar in New Delhi, where he was to be decorated with the CIE medal. The belt buckle he was to wear for the occasion pierced him, causing him to bleed. Being diabetic, the wound turned septic and he did not recover from the incident, passing away at his palatial residence Ashrama in Mylapore. He is remembered today for the various institutions he founded such as the Mylapore Club, the Sanskrit College and the Venkatramana Ayurveda Dispensary (all in Mylapore) and last but not the least, the Indian Bank, which he helped form with many more prominent Madras citizens following the collapse of the Arbuthnot Bank. It was also he who funded the first ever publication of Subramania Bharati’s songs.

Sir V. Bhashyam Iyengar was another legendary name amongst the Indians in the legal fraternity. He was the first Indian to be appointed Acting Advocate General of Madras and was later appointed a judge of the Madras High Court. He was knighted in 1900. His statue stands even today outside the Madras Bar Association entrance in the High Court. The Thaneer Thurai market, which stood until recently on Royapettah High Road, was his creation. Vidya Mandir, the reputed school later came up on his residence, Vembakkam Gardens. He passed away in 1908.

No comments:

Post a Comment