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Of humane verdicts

K. Narayana Kurup, former judge of the Kerala High Court, has been behind some recent landmark judgements, including those related to the ban on smoking in public places and cruelty to animals.



LANDMARK JUDGEMENT: Justice K. Narayana Kurup.

CIGARETTE SMOKING is injurious to health. We all know that, don't we? But people continue to smoke and pass on the smoke to non-smokers too. All this would change, one thought, in 1998, when there came a landmark judgement, by the Division Bench of the Kerala High Court (Ag CJ A. R. Lakshmanan and Justice K. Narayana Kurup), banning smoking in public places. The Supreme Court ratified it later.

But the man behind that judgment, K. Narayana Kurup, former acting Chief Justice and senior most judge of the Madras High Court, himself is not sure that things have changed much. That the law on smoking is not taken very seriously is common knowledge. "Yes, there is slackness in implementing the law," agrees Justice Kurup.

"But there are provisions to implement it properly in the Indian Penal Code," he points out. In IPC Section 166, it is said that `a public servant disobeying law with intent to cause injury to any person is liable for punishment with simple imprisonment up to one year or with fine or with both'. Unless the State Government takes it seriously, it is bound to go the way of several other laws that remain on paper. That other States took the cue and passed similar orders is to the credit of the State.

Kurup has just returned from Qatar, where the Anti-smoking Society and the Government of Qatar honoured him. Kurup is no smoker. He quit the habit after reading a lot of medical literature.

His love for animals made him take a leading role in the judgment against the public display of carcasses; also by a separate judgement upholding a Government notification banning the display and training of five animals - lion, tiger, bear, monkey and elephant. That Division Bench judgement had very good things to say about animals -- that they `sometimes behaved better than Man'.

Its implementation is in the hands of the Government and the people. "The basic rights of animals should always be recognised," he says.

Medical jurisprudence is his forte. He has benefited a lot from medical journals, and he feels the Law syllabus should be modified to include more medical subjects. This will give an edge to lawyers and judges while dealing with medico-legal cases and also, while deciding on the compensation. Which brings us to the Muhamma boat tragedy, which he is looking into now. "The inspection of the boat is over. Unfortunately, boats do not come under the Motor Accidents Tribunal. The boat was overloaded," he says. "The authorities concerned spend a lot to acquire aircraft. Why can't they buy a proper boat for Rs. 25 lakh? Are some lives more important than others?" he asks

A collector of Vinayaka figurines, Kurup loves listening to Carnatic music. He is not an avid moviegoer, and is not impressed with the way the judiciary and the lawyer fraternity get depicted on the screen.

PREMA MANMADHAN

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