A fearless and indomitable personality and a crusader of social justice, VR Krishna Iyer passed away in a hospital in Kochi on Thursday.
The former Supreme Court judge and Kerala minister succumbed to health and age related ailments that led to multiple organ failure. He turned 100 on November 15 this year. Iyer, who was a lawyer, politician, writer and finally a judge, brought about major changes and reforms in every field he could, influencing the legal system and common mass alike. He fought for the rights of the downtrodden, women, minorities, aborigines and for environmental protection. He strived hard for the causes of religious amity and secularism all through his life.
Iyer started his legal practice in 1937 in Thalassery court, working hard for the peasants and the labourers stuck in many agrarian struggle related cases. He was a member of the Madras Legislative Assembly in 1952 and handled portfolios such as law, justice, home, irrigation, power, prisons, social welfare and inland navigation in the first Communist government in Kerala headed by E.M.S. Namboodiripad. He passed several significant pieces of people-oriented legislations during his tenure as minister in the Communist government. He gave legal assistance and successfully defended communists like Krishnapilla, EMS and AKG during the time of severe clampdown on the movement by the government.
Iyer was appointed a judge of the Kerala High Court in 1968 and later as a Judge of the Supreme Court in 1973. He served as a Member of the Law Commission from 1971 to 1973. A fearless persona, he started more courts for speedy justice when fast track courts were a distant reality and was a patron of more than 100 organisations and associations. According to Iyer, his biggest achievement in life was the jail reforms. He demanded the policemen to be taught human rights and that their commitment to its protection should be made a prerequisite for promotions. Prisoners were allowed proper food, clothing and accommodation as they too were entitled to human rights.
Iyer was in the forefront of forming the Forum for Democracy and Communal Amity during the Babri Masjid issue and came forward against the corrupted heads of the Human Rights Commission. He was an active member of Inter Faith Dialogue centre and strongly opposed polititised communal clashes giving him his share of critics and supporters. He was conferred with Padma Vibhushan in the 1999. Iyer had authored around 70 books, mostly on law that would serve the future generations and also four travelogues. He is the only Supreme Court judge to have served as a politician prior to his appointment to the apex court.
The man who led a revolution in jurisprudence that stabilized the Supreme Court’s identity dedicated his entire life to serve the masses. He passed around 700 rulings and believed that the law was for people; people were not for law. The eminent personality had been associated with Madhyamam since its inception in 1987 providing valuable contributions. We pay homage to the great human rights warrior of our times.