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Mainstream, VOL LII No 51, December 13, 2014

Tribute to V.R. Krishna Iyer

Monday 15 December 2014

In the death of Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, who entered his 100th year last month, the country as a whole has become poorer, not just the world of Indian jurisprudence.

In one of the most incisive tributes to the departed personality, Prof Upendra Baxi, currently Emeritus Professor of the UK’s University of Warwick, observed that Justice Krishna Iyer “has done much, as a justice and a human being, to eliminate the conceptual distinction between India and Bharat”.

Born in Kerela’s Palakkad on November 15, 1915, Justice Krishna Iyer studied law in Madras and began practising in Thalassery. In 1952 he was first elected to the Madras Legislative Assembly from Thalassery. In 1957 he was appointed a Minister in the first Communist Government in Kerala headed by E.M.S. Namoodiripad being in charge of such crucial Ministries as Home, Law, Prisons, Social Justice and Irrigation. In a brief stint of two years he left a deep impress in the running of the State Government as an able and competetent administrator endowed with a long-term vision. In 1968 he become a judge of the Kerala High Court and in 1971 he was made a member of the Central Law Commission where he drafted the country’s first comprehensive free legal aid report. In 1973 he was elevated to the Supreme Court of India where he spent seven years and played a key role in delivering several major judgments.

After retirement from the Apex Court he took up people’s issues and championed causes of human rights and civil liberties across the nation fearlessly speaking out against the powers that be, whether on repression in Nandigram or on the privation of Taslima Nasrin.

He passed away around 3.30 pm at Kochi on December 4.

He happened to be N.C.’s close and intimate friend and paid warm tributes to the intrepid journalist after the latter’s demise in 1998.