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The quintessential Vizagite

D.V. Subha Rao

"THE justice delivery system in the present economic dispensation, i.e, market economy, has become most essential, if not vital. Hence it requires regulation, both statutory and self. The challenge before the system is to inspire the respect and regard of the entire nation."

That is the belief of D.V. Subba Rao, the first mofussil lawyer to adorn the seat of the Bar Council of India Chairman. "Lawyers and judges continue to be the sentinels of our democracy. With my experience of over 40 years in the profession, I am convinced that subordinate courts and mofussil lawyers who constitute 90 percent of the national bar are the backbone of the judicial system."

Inside the court or the tribunal, for that matter outside too, the soft-spoken Subba Rao's views are heard with respect and admiration because beneath the eloquent and skilful presentation is his unwavering adherence to high ideals. That is why eminent judges like Chandrachud, Bhagawati, Jeevan Reddy and Kirpal and jurists like Nariman, Sorabjee, Parasaran and Venugopal hold him in high esteem.

Says the former Chief Justice of India, P.N. Bhagawati: "I was deeply impressed not only by his intellectual calibre but also by the great sincerity and diligence with which he argued his client's case. He is a man of high integrity and exceptional character, with large experience in public life and breadth of vision which is not confined to law but extends to a wide range of activities."

As a member of the prestigious Justice V.S. Malimath Committee on reforms of criminal justice system - it has since submitted its report - and of the Justice M. Jagannadha Rao Committee, constituted by the apex court to suggest ways for effective implementation of Section 89(2) of Code of Civil Procedure, besides being associated with the Natioanl Judicial Academy, which provides training for judges, lawyers and teachers of law, Subba Rao has done AP - and Vizag in particular - proud. It must be a most satisfying and rewarding work for Subba Rao to be so actively involved in the reform and reconstruction of the national judical system and legal education and profession in general which he has been serving with distinction and dedication for 46 years.

All this work is in addition to the arduous task undertaken by him as BCI chief in laying down standards of legal education and in initiating steps for inculcating discipline in the legal profession. The BCI, which he heads for the second term now, has embarked upon several programmes to refurbish the image of the bar and the legal profession by organising seminars and workshops.

He was born with a '`legal spoon' in his mouth as both his grandfather, Srirama Sastry, and father, Somayajulu, were lawyers of repute. It was, however, his father's borther, Seetaramamurthy, popularly known as Seetababu, who was a source of strength and support for young Subba Rao when he enrolled as a lawyer in 1957. By then Subba Rao was already popular in Vizag as former president of the Andhra University Law College Society, as a debater and as captain of the AU cricket team that won the inter-collegiate championship for the Tirumurthi Shield in 1955. The university's famous physical director, the late K. Sudarsana Rao, made a correct assessment of the university's sports potential. The cricket team of 1955 had players who were individually good but collectively ineffective. The physical director chose Subba Rao to weld the team into a match-winning outfit and the result was triumph for the team in the zonal match at Vizag and the finals at Anantapur. Twenty years later Subba Rao displayed similar leadership qualities as Lions Governor when Lions International Oak Brook, Illinois, called him "an outstanding writer".

Jawaharlal Nehru was Subba Rao's icon and Tenneti Viswanadham his role model. But it was N.T. Rama Rao who drafted him into politics first as Chairman of Visakhapatnam Urban Development Authority in 1985 and two years later as Mayor of Visakhapatnam, The decision to plunge into politics was as hard as the election he fought to become the Mayor in 1987.

Some of his friends advised him against getting into politics, first as VUDA chief and later as Mayor. His reply was that if all good people shied away, politics would never become good. He proved his friends and critics wrong by demonstrating that honesty and integrity do count in public life if only one had the will and the vision to achieve a goal. His term as VUDA Chairman and Mayor saw many things happening in the 'City of Destiny'. Beautification of the beach and the city's environs, the completion of the Corporation Stadium where eight international cricket matches, including a World Cup tie, had been played, launching such projects like Gurazada Kalakshetram, museum, Appu Ghar, VUDA Park and aquarium, widening of roads and greening the hill range were among the gains for Visakhapatnam. He was the only Mayor selected from India to participate in the UNICEF Conference, held at Dakar (Senegal) in 1991, known as `Mayors as Defenders of Children".

For the last 12 years, he is heading the Andhra Cricket Association. Subba Rao went to the West Indies with the Indian cricket team led by Sachin Tendulkar as its administrative manager in 1997. He is a life-member of Prema Samajam and of several socio-cultural and educational organisations, including Ramakrishna Mission, Bharati Gana Sabha and Viskha Music Academy. A moment he cherishes was the welcome he extended to M.S. Subbulakshmi when she and her husband T. Sadasivam came to Vizag. Touching her feet in respect, Subba Rao recalled the famous words of Jawaharlal Nehru adding that "after all he was a city Mayor before the Queen of Music".

Subba Rao's only disappointment has perhaps been his inability to get elected to Parliament. To represent the city he so passionately loves, to articulate its needs and plead for its development, who is better qualified than Subba Rao whose family has ties with the place and its ethos for over a hundred years?

Durvasula Venkata Subba Rao is the quintessential Vizagite. His rise in public life coincided with the city's rise to national and international prominence. Fame and exalted positions have failed to corrode his innate goodness just as age has not dimmed his capacity for hard work. He embodies the spirit of Vizag marked by cultural catholicity, vibrancy of outlook and enduring humility. He is gentle in disposition but firm in conviction; soft in expression but uncompromising in his adherence to values. An accomplished public speaker, he is also a delightul conversationalist with a penchant for anecdotes laced with humour. His broad and disarming smile puts even strangers at ease. A secret of his smooth and quiet completion of the Biblical span of three score and ten is his ability to take the rough and smooth of life in the stride, to laugh at himself and to strive to live up to the ideal of doing good to society without any quid pro quo. Service with humility transcends every boundary, including that of law and justice.


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