Two additions I received for my library recently were titled Voice of Justice, Volumes 1 and 2, and they came with the promise of Volume 3 being not far behind. Together, they contained over 200 of the 400 and more speeches made by a man with a rather remarkable record.
Ar. Lakshmanan was the quintessential boy from a rural area who studied in the local township’s school. He went on to become a first generation lawyer dreaming of being nothing more than a successful one. But after 22 years at the Bar, he found himself elevated to the Madras High Court Bench. Looking back on his elevation he recalls that that school in Devakottai produced five High Court judges, which must be some kind of a record for a rural school.
In Justice Lakshmanan, however, that school went further and could well have set yet another record. How many High Court judges have served on the Bench of not one but four High Courts? And if there are such judges, how many of them have served as Chief Justices of three High Courts, albeit in an acting capacity in one instance, and then gone on to serve as a judge of the Supreme Court? Justice Lakshmanan moved from Tamil Nadu, where he became a Judge of the Madras High Court in 1990, to Kerala, where he acted as Chief Justice, then he served Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh as Chief Justice before being appointed to the Supreme Court in 2002. In 2007, he retired to become Chairman of the Indian Law Commission.
Voice of Justiceis a collection of numerous speeches he has made over the years. In speaking of preparing for these speeches he says, “Not only did I take pre-operative care but also took much post-operative care in preserving these speeches all these years.” The speeches cover a wide range of subjects, from the legal to the spiritual, from men and matters to sweet memories. There are far too many interesting quotes to mention in the limited space here. But focussing on Madras as this column does, I searched for a bon mot on Madras and sure enough found one. Speaking at the centenary of the Madras High Court building in 1992, he said: “One historical fact that might have escaped our attention is that the old Chenna Kesava and Chenna Mallikeswara temples had earlier been on this site and, therefore, this building has been blessed by the Gods.” He went on to remember the words of Chief Justice S. Ramachandra Iyer, who remarked on the occasion of the High Court’s Centenary: “On the site that a temple of God was located, a temple of Justice came to be built.” But no matter how good speeches are, nothing can compare, in the case of a senior judge, to his judgements, particularly landmark ones — and Justice Lakshmanan had many — and his memories. I hope we’ll get to read them before long.