Living life king-size
Scholarly, national figure, erudite in every subject under the sun, very interested in social causes. This is the picture of Justice Krishna Iyer that the public has. The man behind, his beliefs, his personal life, has been an enigma. "I believe that you do survive after death. And I am in the process of writing a book on this subject,'' he tells VIJAY GEORGE who met him recently for an exclusive interview for The Hindu Metro Plus.
"WHEN KRISHNA IYER speaks, the nation listens," strong words of appreciation from none other than F.S.Nariman, one of India's best-known lawyers. Perhaps that could best describe the legend that Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer is.
He is wearing a collar around his neck after a serious injury suffered during his recent visit to Gujarat. That restricts his movement. But even that is not enough to dampen his spirits. He is, if one may borrow the Supreme Court of India's comment on him, `one of those rarest of rare individuals, blending in himself in mellow measure, activism with restraint, politics with principle, scholarship with humanism and daring with dedication.'
Justice Krishna Iyer has been a very successful lawyer, a minister who understood the pulse of the people, a judge who was genuinely humane and an activist who never feared to fight injustice. He says that he was always an `anti-establishment' man.
Before giving his consent to receive Padma Vibhushan, he had called up President K.R.Narayanan to ask if the award will in any case take away his right to criticise the establishment. `Padma Vibhushan will not stand in between your right to do so,' was the clarification he had received. He accepted the honour.
When did he first know that he wanted to be a lawyer? "I became a lawyer because my father was a highly successful lawyer", he remembers. He became a noted lawyer too and started practicing independently. He was detained during the Quit India struggle.
He appeared for the communists in court and maintained a good rapport with them. "But I was never a communist," he clarifies, "though I shared the socialist dimensions with them. And I have appeared for Congressmen too".
But both of his sons have chosen careers other than law. Weren't they interested in seeking a profession in law in the lines of their hugely successful father and grandfather?
"My elder son is an engineer settled in the U.S. My younger son wanted to opt for medicine, but he studied law mainly due to the persuasion of my juniors. And he did practice for some months. Later he decided to be an executive and is now the Sr. Vice President of Sundaram Finance".
Justice Krishna Iyer was noted as a member of the opposition in the Madras Legislature. Later he proved his abilities during his stormy tenure as a minister during 1957 and 1959 in Kerala after the formation of the State. He was in charge of portfolios like Law, Justice, Home, Irrigation, Energy and Social welfare. "I enjoyed my stint as a minister as I could work more for the people," he says. He transformed the police as the home minister and also prison-life. He issued orders for maintaining religious harmony in jails and also not to handcuff the prisoners when it was not needed. He started irrigation projects and even courts as `shramadans'.
The `Vimochana samaram', which eventually overthrew the government, was a result of "an unjust conspiracy by some groups," he feels. He had contacted Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to express his protest over the way the Congress party was calling for the suspension of a democratically elected government. He points to the photographs, which adorn his walls, where he talks to the then prime minister at the Raj Bhavan.
He never wanted to be a judge when he was selected since he had a flourishing practice as a lawyer. Even, EMS Namboodiripad had sent K.R.Gowriamma to persuade him to take up the offer. Accepting the friendly advices from his well wishers, he became a judge of the High court.
He was later elevated as a judge of the Supreme Court of India where he had a truly memorable tenure. He was always a `people's judge'. With Justice Bhagwati, he had started the concept of `Public Interest Litigations (PIL)'.
Has not the PILs been mis-used to some extent of late?
"May be that's true in some cases where it has become publicity intended litigations," he smiles.
The death of his wife, Sarada, in 1974, changed his life. And he believes in `life after death'. "May be the atheists disagree with me in this matter. But I am stating this from my own experiences. I believe that you do survive after death. And I am in the process of writing a book on this subject. That will be based on my own experiences and also on some other people's experiences too," he shows the numerous books that he has on his almirah on the subject.
Has he talked to his wife after her death? "Yes, through a medium," he says, "My wife used to talk to me through Justice Gupta's wife. They had moved into our house -2 Teen Murti Marg- after my wife's death, in Delhi. My wife had warned me through Mrs.Gupta not to drive my car, as I was soon to meet with an accident. That turned out to be true. How do you explain that?"
"Mrs.Gupta had never met my wife when she was alive," he clarifies. Justice Gupta had later told him that whenever Mrs.Gupta was seen talking to someone, standing alone, he knew that it was Justice Iyer's wife.
"But that has stopped now," he adds. " I did ask her recently if there was any message for me from my wife, but Mrs.Gupta told me that they do not meet these days".
His love for life and love for music had been instilled by his wife. She was much in public life too. She was a good vocalist and veena player. And both of them were closely associated with the Hindi Prachar Sabha and the Fine Arts Society.
"I also play the veena," announces Justice Iyer with a smile, which comes rather rarely in his serious visage. He had close association with the legendary singer, Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagawathar.
He was the president of Kerala Hockey Association and a member of the Sports Council. He had close association with cricket along with M.K.K.Nayar. Did he play these games during his child hood days? "Not much," is the reply.
People are waiting to see him with loads of requests. He hears them, undeterred by the pain caused by the injury in his neck. He finds strength from his association with them. They know that he will stand up for them too. That makes him easily one of the most loved persons around.
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