As a true public intellectual, Jnanpith Award Winner U.R. Ananthamurthy did not just espouse public causes by participating in struggles, but took part in legal battles by approaching the Supreme Court and Karnataka High Court. He also appeared before the quasi judicial commissions on issues of public interest.
He had filed two petitions before the Supreme Court on the controversial Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor project (BMIC). In his first petition filed in 2008, he had claimed that a large extent of land was acquired in excess of the requirement to build the expressway and allied infrastructure.
In his petition filed in June 2014, he had questioned the Karnataka High Court’s order of directing the State to pass an award for certain portions of land acquired for the BMIC even though the issue of excess land was pending before the apex court. In this petition, he had alleged that the State had not challenged the High Court’s order “to perpetuate fraud committed for misappropriating massive tracts of lands belonging to farmers”. He was among several petitioners, under the banner of Citizens for Justice and Peace, which questioned certain aspects related to Datta Jayanti and rituals allowed at the Datta Shrine atop Bababudangiri in Chickmagalur district. All the three petitions are pending before the apex court for final adjudication.
The celebrated writer was among four other litterateurs who in 2011 moved the High Court questioning the State’s decision of merging government schools having less than five students with nearby schools. As a result of this plea, the State gave an undertaking to the court that it would provide free transport to students to reach nearby schools in case of merger.
The private unaided schools managements’ association had made him and other Kannada litterateurs as respondents in its petition of 1994 against Kannada as medium of instruction as this policy was framed based on their suggestions. He was among other Kannada litterateurs who in 2009 knocked on the doors of the apex court on the issue of mother tongue in schools.
When there was opposition from the public to the plans to set up four new thermal power plants, including the one at Chamalapura in Mysore reached boiling point in March 2008, Dr. Ananthamurthy had surprised everyone by personally appearing before the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (KERC) to seek the cancellation of projects which are “environmentally destructive”.
Though his main grouse was against environmental destruction, he had also voiced concern over displacing of farmers by acquiring their lands for “developmental projects”.