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A keen mind, a warm heart

Govind Swaminathan was a man of many parts - lawyer, social worker and sportsman. A tribute by HABIBULLAH BADSHA.

TO say that Govind Swaminathan is no more will be a cliché. He has left behind the warmth of summer and the fragrance of spring. As a lawyer, he excelled in every branch of the law. As a man he stood firmly by his ethics. As a friend he was steadfast. Many mistook him to be arrogant. He was blunt but did not hurt anyone's feelings knowingly.

As a criminal lawyer, he was outstanding. His art of cross-examination was outstanding. He used to tell his juniors: "Never ask a question to which you do not know the possible answer." As a student, I used to come to court to watch him conduct his cases and cross-examine witnesses. He was Advocate-General for many years but his ambition was to become Public Prosecutor. However, that post eluded him.

He had a distinct sense of humour. When I was enrolled in the First Bench, he extended his hand. I thought he was going to congratulate me. He said, " My sympathies are with you." Not many knew about his interest in art, culture and music or social service. He always supported the Guild of Service's fund-raising efforts. Under his guidance, the Home Guards did excellent work. He was also involved with educational institutions and was the President of Balamandir for many years. Whenever anyone wanted to utilise his services for social causes, he voluntarily offered them.

He also had the humility to admit that he did not know everything connected to law. When it came to matters like Land Reforms Act, Hindu Religious Endowments Act, he openly stated that he needed to be educated but when he argued it was a different picture.

As Senior Advocate, he protected his juniors even when the judges tried to find fault with them. He wanted his juniors to be happy and they too were loyal to him. He was extremely polite to his opponents and often took up cudgels for them too.

He was fearless and not cowed by any judge. He stood his ground when he believed in the case. He was firm in his arguments but showed utmost courtesy to the Bench. He used to tell us that despite personal reservations about the qualities of some judges, we have to show respect to the seat they occupy. As a Law Officer, he was exceptionally fair. He would not hide any file from the Court. He would not be a party to any wrongdoing by the Government.

I remember his advice to me when I became Public Prosecutor. He said that as a Law Officer, I should bring all the facts, even those against the prosecution, to the notice of the Court. It was the duty of the Law Officer to assist the Court, not win cases for the Government. If the Government was in the wrong, it was the Law Officer's duty to advice withdrawal of the wrong order or notification. His contribution to legal ethics was the most outstanding feat of his life. Sadly, it is this aspect that is fast disappearing.

He was also a fine sportsman interested in horse riding, golf and cricket. His commentary during cricket matches was scintillating.

As President of the Bar Association, he maintained the dignity of the Bar and helped the Bench interact with the advocates. There were no stormy sessions for both the Bench and the Bar understood each other during his tenure as President.

His death is not the end but the beginning of a new adventure.

The writer is a Senior Advocate in Chennai.

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