The Chief Justice of Madras High Court H.L. Gokhale surprised many a lawyer in the Madurai Bench on Tuesday. Conversing with a priest who argued a case in person, he used a few Tamil words. He also came out with an assonant: "Gurukkal porungal," meaning priest, please wait.
Swami Govindaramanuja Dasa, president of the International Sri Vaishnava Dharma Samrakshana Society based in Tiruchi, had filed the case against the construction of a public lodge in the premises of a ‘Nandhavanam’ (garden) whose flowers were used to adorn the deities of Srirangam Ranganathaswamy Temple.
The case came before the First Bench comprising the Chief Justice and Justice G.M. Akbar Ali. Initially, the Chief Justice asked the petitioner, "Can you not address in English?" When the answer came in the negative, he said: "Then you should have engaged some advocate. There are so many competent lawyers here. Your affidavit is here, but I would like to understand what you argue."
Thereafter, he perused the affidavit and sent a word through the Government Pleader’s office asking the counsel for the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department to appear. In the meantime, the petitioner was asked to wait. "Utkarungal, be seated," the Chief Justice told the priest.
A few minutes later, the judges said the petitioner ought not to have rushed to the court within twenty days of making a representation to the Executive Officer of Sri Ranganathar Devasthanam. They recorded the Government counsel’s undertaking to dispose of the representation within four weeks and gave the petitioner the option of withdrawing the petition or leave it for dismissal.
The priest chose the first option with liberty to move the court after the disposal of his representation, if necessary.
Keywords: Chief Justice, Madras High Court, H.L. Gokhale, Madurai Bench, Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department, Srirangam Ranganathaswamy Temple, Sri Vaishnava Dharma Samrakshana Society, priest