R .Venkataramani, Senior Advocate
Coming from a non lawyer background family, R .Venkataramani started his career in law by practicing in the Trial Court in his home town. He was inspired early on, during his student days, to take up law as a profession. Deciding not to get involved into the family business and having no legal background, Mr.Venkataramani was courageous enough to start from scratch. He is today a senior advocate practicing in the Supreme Court of India and has a good success story which adds to his reputation. Mr. Venkataramani talks, in an exclusive interview, with our correspondent Renu Sharma.
What inspired you to take up law as your profession?
I am the first generation lawyer in my family. It was during my student days that I was drawn towards taking up law as a profession, more particularly because of my impression of law as an instrument of social justice and how law can be used to reduce human sufferings to the extent possible that I saw in the larger context of the role of law in bringing about a just and social order system. I did my law from Government Law College, Pondicherry. We had a good teaching staff, and specially Prof. Madhav Menon I would like to mention, who was of great help during my early days as a student. I was always interested in doing law. My mother always encouraged me to do what I wanted to be, although I started up working as an automobile mechanic in my family motor work shop, alongwith my brother. But I was destined to become a lawyer, as that was in my heart and mind.
During the early years of your career, as a junior lawyer, what difficulties did you face?
I suppose that everyone who belongs to a first generation lawyer family faces a common problem. The problem of recognition, finance and contacts. I started my career as a trial court lawyer in the chambers of a public prosecutor. I got a good senior, Mr. Krishnamoorthy, and had lots of opportunities and work as such was not a problem. I was also fortunate to have a good senior when I shifted to Delhi to practice in the Supreme Court. I had joined the chambers of Mr.P.P.Rao, an eminent senior lawyer. Both my seniors were encouraging and I do not recollect any difficulty, as such, faced by me during the early days of my professional career. I had faced some difficulty when I shifted to Delhi to practice, in the year 1979. There was this cultural and linguistic difference because of which I faced some difficulty, as I noticed that some lawyers were prejudiced against anyone with a different background and new to the environment of the Supreme Court. But as time passed on I gained recognition and respect and ultimately settled in the profession.
“I think law is such a profession that no one is satisfied with their achievements, as it is a never ending learning process”.
Do you recall any particular event, in all these years of your practice , which you particularly remember or which has left a deep impression in your heart or mind ?
There are several cases of importance, which have left an impression on my mind, but I particularly remember a case relating to custodial violation of an ADVASI woman, from Gujarat. We had moved a petition under article 32 before the Supreme Court. Our object was to bring into light these kinds of incidents which keep happening in the rural parts of India and die down without getting noticed, maybe for the reason of lack of active judicial machinery in such places. Our aim was to open these issues and find remedies for such problems. We filed this petition before the Supreme Court and Justice Bhagwati was the Chief Justice at that time, who entertained the said petition, and appointed a commission of enquiry. This commission gave a very important report which created a wave in Gujarat and this thing came into light. Lots of women’s organizations came forward after the report was made public. This issue became a topic of debate and I think the purpose behind this was finally accomplished, i.e. providing social justice to the backward economies of our country.
The functioning or working style of which former, Hon’ble Judge of the Supreme Court has impressed you the most and why?
I would be doing injustice if I name only one judge with whom I have really been impressed. There are quite a few judges whose over all personality have really impressed me. To name a few, of course the first one being justice Krishna Iyer. Also I would like to name Justice Bhagwati and Justice Chinappa Reddy. These gentlemen, I must say, have been excellent as judges. Apart from being good judges, they are also good human souls, very humble and polite. Also, there are many other judges who have in their own way contributed towards the growth of our judicial system and economy, and have impressed me with their distinct approach towards law.
I think law is such a profession that no one is satisfied with their achievements, as it is a never ending learning process. Same way I am also not yet satisfied as I also know that there is a lot more which I can learn from this profession. I have one regret about a project which I have not yet been able to accomplish. I wanted to establish an institution which would be a kind of a meeting point for lawyers and people connected with areas relating to social justice, etc., to come together and debate and develop the process of law , specially public law. I would like to call it the National Center for Law and Reforms. This I wanted to make a place where issues relating to public law would be raised, discussed and debated, so that law reforms could take place with respect to such unexplored parts of public law. However, ever since I was designated as a Senior Lawyer, because of more work commitments, I could not so far develop this institution, but I hope to establish one in the near future.
“We have more human intensive working systems because of which errors follow. We must introduce modern information technology system in the administrative side of our judicial system”.
Many students are now-a-days rushing abroad for attaining foreign law degrees. Does a legal education in foreign colleges help in any way as far as the Indian legal system is concerned?
I would not say that taking legal education abroad would not be of any relevance in India. In fact, if one gets an opportunity to go abroad and learn something, then such an opportunity must not be left at all. There may be issues of importance being discussed in foreign universities. One can learn a lot by participating in these discussions. One can get a good exposure relating to international law and other topics having international importance. But I cannot say to what extent this would be of help to a far away district court practitioner. But I assume that anybody who goes for legal education abroad would definitely be settling in some metropolitan city, taking up a good job in some reputed law firm. Then of course it would make a lot of difference. It adds to one’s personality and intellectual growth. I have my chamber juniors who had gone abroad and have now come back and are doing pretty well.
Do you feel that for improving the working system of our judiciary there is a need for introduction / adoption of systems followed by courts abroad?
We have a very complex dimension of justice system here, in India. The type of cases which come here are such that they cannot be settled in a few hearings. A full trial has to be conducted in order to deliver justice. This is not the case in foreign countries. Such matters there are capable of being settled at the executive and administrative level. But I think the administrative functioning of our judicial is not yet streamlined. We can of course adopt the administrative functioning of foreign courts for a better functioning of our court registry, etc. We have more human intensive working systems because of which errors follow. We must introduce modern information technology system in the administrative side of our judicial system. Once these systems are introduced, the burden on the judicial system would automatically be reduced to some extent. There is no harm in adopting good systems followed by others, for the purposes of improving of our system.
-This Interview was published in LawZ August 2002 issue.