Legal Luminaries

K. Parasaran

“At the age of 84 they (Congress) wanted me to be an MP. I accepted. But what could I contribute?. Though I must say I learnt a lot in the Rajya Sabha.”

In the legal realm, K. Parasaran is a name to reckon with. However, outside the court precincts only a few may recognize this legal eagle. Though famed for his impeccable articulation, he is known to be a man of few words outside the courtroom. He is also known for his proximity to the Nehru-Gandhi family. But perhaps what he is most regarded for is his ethics.

Parasaran himself attributes his ethics to his father, Kesava Iyengar, the doyen of courts down South. Having lost his mother at the tender age of five, his father became his God. According to him, his father “being a karamayogi believed that a lawyer should not amass money” and hence, if he had enough money, then for the next six months he would not take up a case. In Parasaran’s words, “He was detached from money and wealth.”

Emulating his father in personal and professional arenas was then a natural choice for Parasaran. He passed his SSLC in the year 1942 from Hindu High School, Madras, and completed his graduation in 1949 from Presidency College, Madras. After this he took up apprenticeship under his father. His brilliance at academics had been quite evident through the various awards such as the Justice C.V. Kumaraswami Sastri Sanskrit Medal in B.A. and the Justice V. Bhashyam Iyengar Gold Medal in Hindu Law in B.L. He was also the recipient of the Justice K.S. Krishnaswami Iyengar Medal in the Bar Council examination.

In 1956, Parasaran set up his independent practice. In spite of his father’s name, life was a struggle. “My father wanted me to struggle and come up. From 1956 to 1959 life was tough. I got only small cases,” he says, speaking of those trying times when accommodation was a friend’s improved garage that he shared with his wife and child. He practiced in a small chamber that had six other seniors, says the eminent lawyer.

But by the 70s his situation had not only vastly improved but he was at the top of his game. Appointed the Central Government Senior Standing Counsel in 1971, he was made Senior in 1974 and then the Advocate General of Tamil Nadu three years later. The 80s saw him enter the national scene as he moved to New Delhi when appointed the Solicitor General of India. Subsequently, in 1989, he became the Attorney General.

Having numerous cases to his credit, he has shown equal comfort at handling Constitutional cases that were quite complicated to fighting water disputes between states. He is also one who has held several important positions such as President of the Indian Society of Criminology and of the Bar Association of India. He was the Leader of the Indian Delegation visiting New York in March 1984, to present India’s Report before the UN Human Rights committee. Following the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster in 1984, as the Head of the Indian Team, he helped settle the dispute between the Union of India and Union Carbide, USA. He has been a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague in 1986 and has been nominated as a member of the National Commission for Review of the Working of the Constitution. The Annamalai University awarded him an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Law in 1989. In view of his achievements, Parasaran was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 2011 preceded by the Padma Bhushan in 2003. The esteem that the Congress Party has for him saw him being nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 2004. Yet, his humility leads him to say, “At the age of 84 they (Congress) wanted me to be an MP. I accepted. But what could I contribute? Though I must say I learnt a lot in the Rajya Sabha.”

His passion for law is perhaps matched to some extent by his fervor for cricket. “Even as Solicitor General and Attorney General I flew to watch a match,” he reveals. Active both on and off field during his college days, Parasaran says that due to the present-day commercialization, cricket has “lost its charm” for him.

A deeply religious man, Parasaran worships Lord Narayan aand Lord Shiva, and has visited 106 Narayana temples. Even at the age of 77, he travelled all the way to visit the holy shrine of Kedarnath and Kailash-Mansarovar. Attributing his success to God, he says, “I believe whatever I am today is because of the Lord and I never travel to court or outside without visiting the temple of Lord Parthasarathy. My car would perambulate the temple and then I would go to court.”

While he may give all the credit to the lord, those from the world of law know that his hard work, honesty and ethics cannot be disregarded and he continues to hold a place of high regard in the realm of law.

We acknowledge “100 Legal Luminaries of India” by Lalit Bhasin (Lexis). The multicolour coffee table book printed on art paper in Hardbound is priced at ` 5995/- and is available at Universal Book Traders, C-27, Connaught Place, New Delhi – 110001.


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