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Introduction To :'Justice K Narayana Kurup  IMPRESSIONS OF A DOWN -TO-EARTH LEGACY '

Great judgments have their nidus in great judges. Justice Narayana Kurup may justly claim that some of whose pronouncements have won transcontinental acclaim. Take a tiny instance, which acquired tremendous publicity. Tobacco is a common commodity and the 'robed brethren' have never before discovered, with serendipitous versatility, the awesome, ubiquitous thanatos latent in the use of this stuff from the high Bench until Brother Kurup wrote his remarkable opinion which made him globally famous for telling the world with judicial authority and medical authenticity how the deadly and dangerous, packed with cancerous potential, this lethal leaf was when innocently consumed in a variety of customary ways, missing the malignancy of chew or puff or other form of delightful drink or treacherous fast food. How did Justice Kurup acquire profound medical knowledge enough to propound a judicial mandate in defense of the right to life against the grave risks of this nicotine-hidden leafy temptations? It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. He wrote a remarkable opinion on mosquito control revealing extraordinary learning and creative use of Public Interest Litigation. This judgment, had it been implemented with impeccable accuracy and imaginative methodology, mosquito menace in many cities of Kerala would have been made short shrift of. These pathological flies would have been a mere memory of what once did sing and sting and infect on the masses of people Malaria, Filaria and other maladies. A billion words may not be effable enough to describe the vast knowledge Justice Narayana Kurup stores in his Ken, judging by the enormity of the information his judicial dicta disclosed. Judge Learned Hand, that learned genius who never sat on the U. S Supreme Court but was regarded as the 10th Judge of that Apex Bench, once remarked:   


Justice V R Krishna Iyer 


I venture to believe that it is as important to a judge called upon to pass on a question of constitutional law, to have at least a bowing acquaintance with Action and Maitland, with Thucydides, Gibbon and Vcartyle, with Homer, Dante, Shakespeare and Milton, with Machiavelli, Montaigne and Rabelais, with Plato, Bacon, Hume and Kant, as with the books which have been specifically written on the subject. For in such matters everything turns upon the spirit in which he approaches the questions before him. The words he must construe are empty vessels into which he can pour nearly anything he will. Men do not gather figs of thistles, nor supply institutions from judges whose outlook is limited by parish or class. They must be aware that there are before them more than verbal problems; more than final solutions cast in generalizations of universal applicability. They must be aware of the changing social tensions in every society which make it an organism; which demand new schemata of adaptation; which will disrupt it, if rigidly confined.

May be few robed brethren qualify for the description prescribed by Learned Hand, Kurup being one. His bio-data is excellent. His career at the bar is a luminous chapter. His elevation to the Bench was a signal recommendation of his jurisprudential erudition, encyclopedic wisdom and commitment to social justice and rule of law sans which the instrumentality of the court will fail the rule of life.

Justice Narayana Kurup has earned a pan-Indian name and beyond, through some of his rulings and will be remembered for long because judicial performances immortalize the author when they are at their best but you have to be superb at the Bar before the finer aspirations on the Bench. In the case of Justice Kurup, the evaluation of his lawyering career proves his worth as a forthcoming lustrous judge later on the bench. Joseph Bradley observed wisely what Kurup correctly fulfills:

To sum up all in one word, in order to be an accomplished lawyer, it is necessary, besides having a knowledge of the law, to be an accomplished man, graced with at least a general knowledge of history, of science, of philosophy, of the useful arts, of the modes of business, and of everything that concerns the well-being and intercourse of men in society. He ought to be a man of large understanding; he must be a man of large acquirements and rich in general information;for, he is a priest of the law, which is the bond and support of civil society, and which extends to and regulates every relation of one man to another in that society, and every transaction that takes place in it Trained in such a profession, and having these acquirements, and two things more (which can never be omitted from the category of qualifications), incorruptible integrity and a high sense of honor, the true lawyer cannot but be the highest style of a man, fit for any position of trust, public or private; one to whom the community can look up as to a leader and guide;fit to judge and to rule in the highest places of magistracy and governments; an honor to himself, an honor to his kind

I have been a lawyer myself, later a minister in a State and eventually a judge. In this trinity of capacities I have been able to realize how important deep scholarship, wide understanding of the world and lovely the fine arts, creative imagination in using lawyering for securing justice-how these faculties are necessary before you can claim eminence in lawyering and justicing. From this angle I look at Kurup's panoramic perspectives and support by submission by a quotation from the great judge Felix Frank further:

No one can be a truly competent lawyer unless he is a cultivated man. If I were you, I would forget all about any technical preparation for the law. The best way to prepare for the law is come to the study of the law as a well-read person. Thus alone can one acquire the capacity to use the English language on paper and in speech and with the habits of clear thinking which only a truly liberal education can give. No less important for a lawyer is the cultivation of the imaginative faculties by reading poetry, seeing great paintings, in the original or in easily available reproductions, and listening to great music. Stock your mind with a deposit of much good reading, and widen and deepen your feelings by experiencing vicariously as much as possible the wonderful mysteries of the universe, and forget all about your future career.

By these canons Narayana Kurup can be regarded as a noble example of forensic mastery. He has been praised by various organizations and awarded honors not merely for jurisprudential punditry but for his astonishing achievements in various subjects. Lord Templeman, a great Law Lord himself has praised Kurup for his capability as judge. Several institutions have similarly presented him with distinctions making him one among the rarest of the rare in the Indian judiciary. In writing a foreword to this macro collection of photographs compendiously produced as a magnificent album the like of which I have not seen before nor known to exist. Each photograph and other picture have a story or adventure so instructive that the reader misses a value if he misses a page. I have been a valetudinarian nonagenarian, still under medical treatment. In this invalid state I am unable to do justice to the author's excellent career. Even so, the book itself with its vast coverage and wonderful photographs will argue Justice Narayana Kurup's abilities and value-laden commitments. The Bar of Chalakudi ever grateful to a superlative judge - Justice Kurup - who hails from that place has done the right thing in dedicating this wonderful piece to the memory of Rajiv Gandhi, an illustrious son of India, who had a rare vision of the role that it could play in the Global Comity of Nations.

February 20,2006                                          sign.jpg

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