Suriya Shiva Kumar’s Tamil film ‘Jai Bheem’ has recently been released on Amazon Prime. Actor Suriya plays Advocate Chandru in this film, who always stands for helping the poor and underprivileged people. But very few people know that the lawyer played by Suriya in this film is related to real life.
Directed by TJ Gyanvel, the film tells the story of a tribal pregnant Sengani (Lijomol Jose), who is struggling to locate her husband Rajakannu (K Manikandan). Rajakannu was falsely accused of theft by the police and said that he had escaped from custody. Advocate Chandru (actor Surya) helps Sengani in getting justice in this case.
Justice got after 13 years of fighting
The film is based on a true incident that happened in the Cuddalore district in 1993. In the original story, Rajakannu, who belonged to the Andai Kurumbar tribe, was accused of stealing jewelry from a house. The people associated with this tribe are mostly associated with the business of making bamboo baskets or are agricultural laborers. Based on the complaint, Rajakannu was taken into custody by the police.
After suffering torture at the hands of the police, Rajakannu died in custody. To hide his crimes, the local police dumped his body in the nearby district of Tiruchirappalli (Trichy) and later claimed that he had escaped from custody. Rajakannu’s wife, Parvati was surprised by this. He didn’t believe the police story. She was doing everything possible to locate her husband. In the end, he was met by an advocate of the Madras High Court, K. Chandru was supported, who helped him in getting justice in this case.
K Chandru, filed a habeas corpus petition in the Madras High Court. After 13 years of legal battle, the court ruled that it was a case of custodial death. The accused police officers were sentenced to 14 years of rigorous imprisonment for the murder of Rajakannu. In an interview, Chandru recalls how the police tried to suppress Parvati and bribe her. Chandru had thrown out a suitcase full of police and money from his office.
Long history of fighting injustice
Justice Chandru, always a lawyer and now a retired judge, has been raising his voice for justice. He has a long history of speaking out against social issues and fighting injustice. During his six-and-a-half year tenure in the Madras High Court, he solved 96,000 cases as a judge. This remarkable achievement was made possible only because of his impeccable image and honesty.
He heard an average of 75 cases in a day. Apart from this, many landmark judgments were also given regarding social justice. Women can become priests in temples, funerals should have a public crematorium instead of caste-segregated cremation, protection of rights and protection from dismissal to government employees suffering from mental illnesses under the Full Participation Act Historical decisions like
Contrary to the kind of greed and greed we see in the legal profession today, Justice Chandru remained a humble man. He dedicated his entire life to fight for the downtrodden and the poor.
live a simple life
During an interview to a legal publication in 2013, he had said, “Money doesn’t matter to me. I was living a completely different life. My ambition was not to become a ‘5-star lawyer’.”
As a judge, he told lawyers not to address him as ‘My Lord’ in court. He did not want the announcement to be made for his arrival in the court. He had also refused to have a Personal Security Officer (PSO). In their view, it has become a status symbol rather than a security. On his first and last day as a judge, he had declared his personal wealth. Even after retirement, he came home by local train, surrendering his government car.
Chandru was born in a middle-class conservative family. His life in college was completely different from personal background. He joined the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and, as a student leader, fought for the rights of students and workers. For leading the student movements, he was expelled from Loyola College, Chennai. Later, he graduated from Christian College.
Working as an activist and trade unionist, he visited factories, addressed workers’ meetings, traveled in lorries and buses across Tamil Nadu, met families of Dalit labourers, agricultural laborers and trade union leaders. Of. He learned and understood how the deprived and marginalized people were being denied their basic rights.
Advocating at the behest of the judge
Actually, at first he was not interested in advocacy. He got into this profession by chance. Following the police lathi charge, an inquiry commission was set up to probe the death of a student of Anna University. The commission was headed by an additional judge of the Madras High Court and Chandru appeared before them on behalf of the students.
Chandru answered the questions so carefully in front of the commission that everyone was impressed by him. At that time the judge suggested him to join the legal profession. After this, in the year 1973, Chandru took admission in the Law College, but he was not allowed to come to the hostel. This was done to her, being a student activist in the past. In protest, he went on hunger strike for three days. Then somewhere he got admission in the hostel.
While studying law school, Chandru started working for a law firm named ‘Roe & Reddy’ and remained associated with this firm even after graduation. This company used to provide legal aid to the poor people. After working there for eight years, Chandru started private practice. He was the youngest lawyer to be elected as a member of the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu. He was nominated as a Senior Advocate by the Madras High Court around the year 1990. In 1988, due to ideological differences with the party over the Tamil issue in Sri Lanka, he broke away from the CPI(M).
done many historic decisions
In July 2006, his appointment as an Additional Judge of the Madras High Court was made permanent in November 2009. As a judge, he made several decisions which had a lasting impact on the social fabric of the state. Delivering his verdict in September 2008, he directed that a woman priest be allowed to conduct the puja in the village temple where the goddess Durga is seated. He completely rejected the claim of the petitioner’s cousin, in which he had argued that since he is a male, he should be allowed to perform ‘puja’ in the temple. Only a man can be a priest, not a woman.
Justice had said, “It is ironic that objections are being raised against a woman priest in temples where the idol of the goddess is situated. There is neither any such provision of law nor any system that prevents women from performing puja in the temple.”
Government’s decision on dismissal challenged
In October 2007, he took another extraordinary decision. He had reversed the dismissal of an Anganwadi worker by the Tuticorin district administration. The petitioner, Tamilarasi was an Anganwadi worker. According to court documents, the district administration had argued that “it would not be possible to run an Anganwadi with the service of the petitioner”. Because his mental condition is not good. This female activist was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, which is a type of mental illness.
According to court documents, the woman had worked in this institution for 25 years and had also won an award from the district collector for ‘excellent service in child care and related activities’. In his spare time, he also taught English to the children of the village. Being unmarried, she also took care of her aging parents.
Unfortunately, his father died in November 2002 and his brother left home after marriage and started living separately. She used to stay with her mother and take care of her. In February 2006, he was dismissed from the job.
Words like Insane Medical Condition are offensive
After hearing the matter, Justice Chandru took strong objection to the district administration using words like “Insane Medical Condition” and had upheld his dismissal.
“Given the family background of the petitioner, no effort was made to ascertain his condition. More importantly, no attempt was made to refer him to the Medical Board for the proper certificate required under the ‘Mental Health Act, 1987’.”
It took some time for Justice Chandru to convince Tamilarasi that in order to challenge the government’s decision on the dismissal, he would have to undergo a test for his mental health status. After much persuasion, Tamilarasi agreed to it and was admitted to the Government Rajaji Hospital, Madurai. Where an expert team of psychiatrists examined him.
Mental illness is also a kind of disability
Based on the report, Justice Chandru said, “She is suffering from paranoid schizophrenic disease and all her symptoms are completely under control with medicines. Under the supervision of a mental health professional and effective antipsychotic medications and mood stabilizers, she will be able to perform all the responsibilities.”
Unfortunately, Tamilarasi did not live long enough to celebrate her victory. However, his case set an important precedent, that mental illness is also a disability, which is protected by the legal provisions laid down under the Disability Act 1995 (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation). People suffering from mental illnesses are entitled to continue working in government service.
Many articles and books written on law
After retirement as a judge in the Madras High Court, Justice Chandru became a very active member of civil society. He wrote many articles and books on law. Her book ‘Listen to My Case: When Women Approach the Courts of Tamil Nadu’ has been published recently. In this, he has written about the story of 20 women and their struggle for justice.
Judge Chandru has always raised his voice against injustice. In true sense, he has lived a remarkable life. One must also praise Suriya, the megastar of Tamil cinema, who tried to bring an important part of his life to the public. Suriya has lived the character of Justice Chandru with great honesty and beauty.
Original article: Rinchen Norbu Wangchuk
Editing: Archana Dubey
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