In the passing away of former Tamil Nadu DGP V.R. Lakshminarayanan the Indian Police has lost one of its doyens. I have been personally orphaned. He was in the same pantheon as F.V. Arul, C.V. Narasimhan and N. Krishnaswami, all of whom I admired most and who were my role models.
VRL was legendary for his erudition in criminal law. He set up practice as a lawyer before joining the IPS in 1951. He would definitely have adorned the legal profession as well as his brother did. What was the loss of the Bar was the gain of the Police. VRL was however not overshadowed by his illustrious older brother, Justice Krishna Iyer. The two were equally brilliant and shared a faith in humanity that was unsurpassed. Strikingly similar in their physical appearance and their love for the bombast in speaking and writing, their bond was undemonstrative but deep to the core.
I first met VRL in December 1967 on the eve of my departure for Delhi to join the IB. I was straightaway bowled over by his charm and down-to-earth simplicity and humility. Since then it was a friendship between us that can hardly be described in mere words. Young IPS officers sought him for counsel, especially when they were in deep trouble after a brush with authority. He taught them how to stand up to the establishment but without offending them. In fact this was his hallmark. Never hurt anybody, but stand by your principles.
VRL was MGR’s surprise choice to head the Tamil Nadu Police in the early 1980s. The decision to make him DGP was despite the advice of some vested interests that this would greatly offend Indira Gandhi. MGR took the plunge, obviously because he knew what mettle VRL was made of. MGR was the greater beneficiary of this ethical decision. I never gave VRL the chance of survival. But then the two men hit it off very well.T his was a tribute to the greatness to both personalities, however different they were in their perceptions of law and order.
Sadly, VRL paid a huge penalty for his integrity and unbending adherence to law earlier during his innings with the Special Police Establishment (SPE) which later became part of the CBI. His clash with PM Indira Gandhi after she returned to power in 1980 is widely known. Mrs. Gandhi never forgave Narasimhan, then CBI Director, and VRL, the Additional Director, for arresting her in connection with the Jeep scandal. Both may have lost their prestigious jobs but not their sterling reputation. Both were sent back to Tamil Nadu as a penalty for their ‘indiscretion’. They lost heavily in terms of rank and perquisites of office. That did not deter them from discharging their duties in the Bhagwad Gita tradition.
VRL should right royally have headed the CBI. But the caprice and small mindedness of those who surrounded Mrs. Gandhi ensured he did not go on to lead the CBI. But then he never revealed any bitterness that he was denied what was lawfully his due. It is irony that many lesser officers who who were not Director material and also had a dubious reputation were later conferred the honour.
VRL’s monumental autobiography ‘Appointments and Disappointments’ says it all.
Take life as it comes. Never display malice or rancour. Life is too short for such peccadilloes. His memoirs should be compulsory reading for those in the IPS who want to be remembered for their professionalism and integrity.
(R.K. Raghavan is a former CBI Director, and is currently India’s High Commissioner to the Republic of Cyprus.)