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V. R. Krishna Iyer

Justice Krishna Iyer is such a legend that I remind myself that I shall not attempt to write about him. 
Yet it is essential that I share my experience having known him closely and interacted with him. He gave a splendid review for my father’s book – Living with Laws – which I had the privilege to edit. That was in the year 2010 about four years before Krishna Iyer died at the age of 99 years in December 2014 and my own father who passed away at the age of 89 in June 2014. 
I recall the day when V.R. Krishna Iyer was elevated to the bench of the Kerala High Court in 1968 when I had just finished my matriculation. 


In the small town of Ernakulam in the sixties, Krishna Iyer was an altogether distinct figure - playing tennis and driving a sky-blue Chevrolet Clipper Automatic Car – mind you in 1960s, he left a lasting impression on me then. It was difficult for me to reconcile his flamboyancy then with his brilliance, position, simplicity and political orientation – a communist. He was the first minister of law, justice, home, irrigation, power, prisons, social welfare and inland navigation in the first communist government in Kerala headed by E. M. S. Namboodiripad that came to power in 1957. He was 42 years then. 

He was very close to my father, a lawyer in the same high court, although Krishna Iyer was ten years older than him. My uncle Prof. V.R. Subramanian (my father’s elder brother – people call him VRS) and Krishna Iyer were even more close through their political life and their associations in Tellicherry where Krishna Iyer was practicing; VRS was a staunch congress man and went to the Viyyur Central Jail as a freedom fighter. My mother and Late Smt. Saradha Krishna Iyer were good friends cemented more by their interest in Carnatic music and the Veena. I recall with gratitude that Krishna Iyer attended my wedding engagement at out home in Kakkanad in the year 1986 along with a large assembly of eminent lawyers. He had by then   retired as a judge of the Supreme Court. He was so down to earth and so literally sat on the floor attending the function. He was about 71 years then. The next year in 1987, he stood for the Presidency of India and lost it to Late R. Venkataraman.

Krishna Iyer was indeed a people’s man and then a people’s Judge. He was indeed a very versatile person and immensely endowed and colourful personality with a lot of grit and determination. I had the privilege to visit him at his home in Ernakulam in 2010 when he was about 95 years old as he was reading Living with Laws, my father’s book for which he gave a fitting review. He had impaired vision then. Even then his bedside was full of books which he managed to read with a contraption that looked like a large lens. After reading the book, he dictated his review which was handwritten by his elderly secretary. He spoke to me for a while praising my father.  
Here is his review for the book:

"Venkatakrishnan was a jurisprudent and never tried to compromise to please the bench. Without flattery, I find his quasi-autobiography entertaining reading, illuminative, informative and truthfully presented - a good education for a fearless principled lawyer. I may summarise briefly its pages are elegant without affectation, excellent without exaggeration and abundance without profusion. What a vintage sansexaggeration, dignity hallowed by divinity"

Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, former Judge of the Supreme Court of India
The book Living with Laws mentions about Justice Krishna Iyer’s judgement on the famous Smt. Indira Gandhi’s case. 
In June 1975, the Allahabad High Court had unseated Prime Minister Indira Gandhi from the Parliament and barred her from it for another six years. Justice Krishna Iyer heard a challenge to this order in the Supreme Court. He granted a conditional stay but refused her an unconditional stay. This was taken up by the Opposition and called for her resignation. The very next day Mrs Gandhi declared a state of Emergency in the country.

Men like Krishna Iyer are indeed very rare. And those who had the privilege to meet and interact with him will have their own fond memories of this great legend who God blessed with a long life. 

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