V. R. Krishna Iyer: The Legend of Judiciary

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Justice V R Krishna Iyer passed away on 4th December, 2014 due to cardiac arrest in Medical Trust hospital, Kochi. Vaidyanathapura Rama Krishna Iyer was born on November 14, 1914 in Palakkad. He had his life in the highest judicial body in India and was also active in politics. He was chosen by the people to the Legislative Assembly of Kerala in 1952 and thereafter, in 1957 acted as the minister for law and social welfare in the Communist ministry till 1959. As a minister, he strived to implement very important alterations in his field of his works. He was sworn in as the Judge of Supreme Court in 1973 and awarded Padma Vibhushan for his contributions in law in 1999.  In the Communist Government under the leadership of E M S Namboodiripad, he worked hard in other areas like power, inland navigation, home affairs, irrigation and many more. Justice V R Krishna Iyer was influential in formulating social welfare legislations at the time he served as minister in Kerala. In 1959, he started active practice in Courts and in 1973 was appointed as a Judge of High Court of Kerala as a result of his dedication to the profession of advocacy. He was then promoted to the Supreme Court and after retirement in 1980 was appointed as member of Law Commission.

Justice V R Krishna Iyer had written more than 100 books among which four of them are travelogue. Wandering in Many Worlds is the famous autobiography published in 2009. Law and the people, Law and Social Change and Indian Overview, Of Law and Life etc are his well known publications.  He was awarded LLD or Doctor of Law by Annamalai University and received Soviet Land Nehru Award in 1968. Vyloppilli award was received by him in 1999 considering his contribution towards the promotion of human rights and administration.

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The judicial pronouncements made in Shamsher Singh v. State of Punjab that construed the authorities of the Cabinet, Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India where Article 21 was transformed to new facets, Ratlam Municipality v. Vardichand etc are considered to be the landmark judgments of Justice V R Krishna Iyer. It was his courage that announced the election of former Prime Minster Indira Gandhi to the House of People as void. Another highlight is the inclusions of his name among the panel that conducted investigation on the Gujarat riots. He was also the Chairman of the Kerala Law Reform Commission constituted in 2009. Even after retirement, he made his life active by continuing his political and legal works. It is surprising that he celebrated his 100th birthday few days before with his loved ones and members of legal group in his residence at Kochi.

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The young lawyers had much to learn from his life. His dedication towards profession and the manner in which he wrote his judgments cannot be described in words. The budding lawyers should definitely go through his judgments and understand the approach taken in each case according to its nature. It was Justice V R Krishna Iyer who broadened the scope and ambit of Fundamental Rights including Public Interest Litigations and made it closer to the poor and needy. He once said that the base of jurisprudence lies in Article 14 which strikes at arbitrary state action. This jurist had expanded the horizons of legal system by interpreting each and every word that appears in law books. Even students, can go through his judgments to expand their thinking and approach towards law. In addition to his dedication in legal fields, his presence could be experienced in public functions and his informative speeches in such functions are remarkable. He was master of English language which can be comprehended from his writings and judgments. When he passes away from this world, it is our promise that he still lives in our heart through his words in law books and writings.