A journal run for 97 years by a family of lawyers, The Law Weekly, has kept pace with the times, with a CD version that's now available

While South Mada Street bustles with its open vegetable market, garland and flower stalls, and home-grown restaurant chains, The Law Weekly seems lost in the contemporary chaos of age-old Mylapore. In a two-storey traditional house nudged between a pharmacy and a home, this journal's ancestry goes back to Vembakkam Sadagopacharlu, the first Indian nominated to the Indian Legislature in 1862.

It seems apt that the family, whose roots are deeply entrenched in law, has been in charge of this journal since its inception in 1914 by V.C.Seshachariar, Sadagopacharlu's nephew. And three generations down, his grandson, V.C. Srikumar, 84, sits in its 97-year-old Mylapore office, as the editor of its current weekly issue.

“When my grandfather started The Law Weekly, there were three other journals. People wondered why he needed to start another journal. But Seshachariar always maintained that there was space for one more,” says Srikumar, who joined the publication in 1948.

Collection of judgments

The Law Weekly began as a publication that collected judgments from the high court every week. “In those days, we would collect judgments from Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka too, since they came under the Madras Presidency,” recollects Srikumar, “Now we concentrate on the Madras High Court and, occasionally, the Supreme Court.”

The editorial committee of The Law Weekly, over the years, included a former Governor of the Madras Presidency (Sir Kurma Venkata Reddy), a retired High Court Judge, and two former Chief Justices. The present committee functions with a former Public Prosecutor (B. Sriramulu), an Additional Solicitor General of Southern States (M. Ravindran) and two former Advocate Generals (R.Krishnamoorthy and N.R. Chandran).

Before the publication began, V.C. Seshachariar and his elder brother Sir V.C. Desikachari ran the Native Middle School for 25 years, some of whose students included C.P. Ramaswamy Ayyar and N. Gopalaswamy Ayyangar, who later went on to become a member of the Cabinet of Independent India. “They handed over the school to be amalgamated with P.S. High School in 1905,” says Srikumar. He adds, “Seshachariar was also one of the founders of the Mylapore Club (1904) and Mylapore Central Urban Bank. The Law Weekly became very popular and in the 1940s, when I joined, I remember that a year's subscription was Rs. 10.”

V.C. Seshachariar retired from active practice in 1929 and devoted all his time to the journal till, in 1936, he was succeeded by his youngest son V.C. Vasudevan. “Vasudevan was a graduate from the Presidency College and started a business, extending help to his father. When Seshachariar passed away, Vasudevan was a bit hesitant to get into the journal since he wasn't qualified to practice. On the advice of elders and members of the Editorial Committee, he took over,” Srikumar explains.

Launch of monthly journal

From 1964 to 1966, Vasudevan became the publisher of the weekly, launching Law Weekly (Criminal), a monthly journal, in 1966. When he passed away in 1966, K.S. Desikan took over as the editor while V.C. Ramachandran succeeded his father as the publisher. “The Law Weekly (Criminal) in 1966 initially ran with one volume a year. It now has five volumes every year. A Reprint Edition of the Law Weekly (Criminal) was issued in 1987, rearranging the decisions subject-wise,” says Srikumar.

Almost a decade later, Srikumar became its editor. In 1984, the Writ Law Reporter, another monthly journal began under his editorship. “Until 2008, my uncle handled the journal single-handedly with some help from his wife,” says V.C. Janardhan, his nephew. In 2007, V.C. Srikumar was felicitated by the Madras Bar Association (MBA) and the Madras High Court Advocates Association (MHAA) for completing 60 years at the Bar.

V.C. Srikumar now runs the weekly along with nephew V.C. Janardhan (also a practising lawyer), who began helping his uncle in 2008. He is the editor of Law Weekly (Criminal) and Writ Law Reporter.

In keeping with the times, The Law Weekly recently went online and has also been digitised. “In October 2009, we tied up with a publisher in Delhi and launched a CD version of The Law Weekly with all its volumes since 1914. There are also free updates on this year's judgments. We will also be coming up with a digital version that we will update with every new edition on the website. People can pay online and access it,” Janardhan says.

For more details on The Law Weekly, visit www.thelawweekly.com