MADRAS MISCELLANY

A reader who is a High Court lawyer and who prefers to remain anonymous has sent more information about Justice Elmar Mack (Miscellany, July 9). Apparently there was some controversy in the High Court in which Justice Mack figured early in 1956, which was to be his last year of service, so he took leave till his retirement date and then left to settle in England (his wife was English) though his brothers and sisters lived in Ceylon. The result of this was that no portrait of his was hung in the High Court.

Justice Mack, however, had many friends and admirers and a portrait committee was formed after Chief Justice S. Ramachandra Iyer agreed on behalf of the court to accept a portrait. And so it came about that the portrait was prepared and unveiled in the High Court with due ceremony by Ramachandra Iyer.

Recalling Mack’s career, the Chief Justice said that Mack the Civilian had worked in the Revenue Department before working for 20 years in the districts as a District Judge. Then came his elevation to the High Court, where he displayed “a passion for justice. Justice according to him meant justice shorn of all technicalities; he used to say the Law of Limitation stood in the way of doing real justice.”

The Chief Justice then recalled a ‘healthy’ suggestion Justice Mack had once made. “He was a Judge who gave expression to the view (which is now agreed to by the Supreme Court) that if two Judges of the High Court differ on the question of sentence, a third Judge before whom the matter goes ought not to impose capital punishment. That was a healthy convention which has now become accepted.”

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From Robinson to Anna

Going to meet a friend in the Washermanpet area recently, I drove past a park called Anna Park. I was sure that when I’d been there many years ago, it was called Robinson Park. Now I don’t know when the name change was made, but I suppose it was appropriate. For it was here, when it was Robinson Park, that on Sunday September 18, 1949, C.N. Annadurai announced to the public the formation of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, an event that was to change the face of Tamil Nadu (then Madras State) politics. On the previous day, Annadurai and several other senior members of the Dravida Kazhagam had met in a house in Coral Merchant Street (George Town) and taken the fateful decision to break with the DK and form the ‘forward-looking’/‘progressive’ DMK. With Annadurai having announced such a momentous decision here, I suppose changing the Park’s name was only fair, particularly as no one is quite sure who the Robinson was after whom the Park was named.

What little I can gather about the Park is that it was transferred to the Corporation on February 1, 1899. Presumably, then it had been a private park. There is reference to an A. Armoogam Mudaliar developing a botanical garden and fernery in the park in 1886. But all that does not tell us who Robinson was.

The only Robinson of any significance in Madras history that I know of, was a civil servant named William Robinson who had teamed with Governor Lord Harris (1854-1859) to draw up a plan that would set up a formal police force for the entire Presidency. In 1857, one of the last acts of the East India Company was to approve the plan and, in May 1858, Robinson was named Chief of the Madras Presidency Police.

The Harris-Robinson plan became the basis of the Madras District Police Act XXIV of 1859 after it was passed on September 6 that year. When the Crown took over from the Company, one of its first acts was to promulgate the Act. Thus, Madras became the first Presidency/Province in British India to establish “an integrated system of provincial policing.”

Under the Act, the head of the Presidency Police was to be an Inspector General of Police. Robinson was named the first IGP of Madras – indeed, the first Inspector General of Police in India! Certainly someone who deserves remembrance. But was Robinson Park that memorial to him? If it was, then, when the name was changed, perhaps he deserved a plaque or a bust in it. As it is, I am not sure whether the announcement of the launching of the DMK in the Park is remembered with any kind of a commemorative marker.

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What’s in a spelling?

If I thought Mackay’s Gardens was called Mackees Gardens only by a newspaper reporter (Miscellany, June 18), I was wrong. Apparently the Electricity Board, or whatever it is now called, spells it Makkees Gardens in its announcements about power shut-downs. It also has a way with many other road names. Here are a few examples:

Prathapat Road – Breithaupt Road

Tadandar Nagar – Todhunter Nagar

Jermaiya Road – Jeremiah Road

Everady Colony – Eveready Colony

Cirucular Road – Circular Road

Ammer John Street – Ameer Jan Street

Stingkar Road – Stringer Street

Iron Manga Street – Ironmonger’s Street

Border Thorram – Borders Thottam

The same sort of thing can be seen in road signs all over the city. Isn’t it time the Corporation sits down with a few who could help and standardises these spellings for all who regularly have to use road names?