C.S. Vaidyanathan, Senior Advocate
After completing law at the age of nineteen and a half years, Mr.Vaidyanathan could not enroll himself as a lawyer, as the required age for enrollment with the bar was twenty years or above. Therefore, he joined a masters course in Law and Social Work. After completing his higher studies he opted for a job with DCM and joined the company as a senior management trainee, but his heart and soul were in the legal profession. He left his secured job and joined the chambers of Mr. KK Venugopal. Later he shifted to Delhi with Mr. Venugopal and was soon able to establish a name for himself in the profession through his heard work and dedication. Today, Mr. Vaidyanathan is an eminent lawyer having an excellent standing at the bar. Mr. Vaidyanathan shares his experiences with our correspondent Renu Sharma.
I did my law after completing my B.Sc. I opted for law after doing my B.Sc because I thought that whatever I have learnt in my B.Sc would not be of much use to me in day to day life, unless I wanted to become a research oriented scientist. Then I decided to opt for law, which I considered would be more appropriate and beneficial to me in life.
After I completed my degree in law, I could not immediately start practicing as I was not able to enroll myself, being under aged for enrollment as a lawyer. Therefore, I joined a masters course in law and social work. Subsequently, in the year 1970, I took up a job with DCM as a senior management trainee. I was in the job for about three and a half years.
After these three and a half years as an executive with DCM, I had an opportunity to review what I was doing with my life, while I was on a train journey for two days. I gave considerable thought and came to a conclusion that as an executive I would perhaps end up without much soul satisfying work. Thus I therefore, decided to leave my job and take up the legal profession, as I thought it would give me an opportunity for self-fulfillment.
That’s how I entered the legal profession and took the risk of leaving a secured job. Now, looking back, I think that I made the right decision.
Did you get any professional support from anyone during the early years of your career?
I can without any hesitation say that whatever I am today it is thanks to K. K. Venugopal. After I decided to take up law as my profession in 1974, I joined the chambers of Mr. K. K. Venugopal in Madras.
Luckily for me the government at that time had created a situation where there were plenty of opportunities for constitutional lawyers in the field of human liberties, in respect of press freedom, detention, etc. and the chamber was flooded with such matters. Amongst the various juniors which K. K. Venugopal had at that time, the junior who was most actively involved in assisting Mr. Venugopal and was P.Chidambaram. But Mr. Chidambaram could not assist Mr. Venugopal in most of those matters at that time because of his political position and relations with the then Congress government. As such, I got opportunities to assist Venugopal in all such matters, which was a great learning experience for me. Being with Venugopal I had full freedom to work and within three months of my joining his chambers I was travelling with him to various other high courts for all important matters.
I was encouraged by K. K. Venugopal and with the kind of opportunities and exposure I got in his chambers while working with him, I learnt a lot. I must say that without the help and encouragement from Venugopal I would not have become what I am today.
“If you are looking only for the comfort of security in life, I don’t think any one can achieve real success.”
Would you like to share some experiences of your struggle during your early years as a lawyer, with our readers?
One thing that I have learnt in my life over these many years of experience is that one should not be a status quoist. You should be willing to take risks in life. I say this because my experience is that unless you take risks there cannot be any success in life. If you are looking only for the comfort of security in life, I don’t think anyone can achieve real success. I left my management job and shifted to law. I burnt my boats in Madras and then shifted to Delhi after putting five years in the profession. That was again a major decision which I took. Later I became a Senior Advocate. I knew that there would be an immediate loss of income to me because as an Advocate on Record there was much more income, and after becoming a Senior, people will not immediately come to you to engage you in matters. But now I think it has been well worth the risk.
The second important thing which I would like to say, is that you must be willing to put in tremendous amount of hard work. Law is a profession which demands continuous hard work. One must read a lot and constantly update his knowledge. As a professional you cannot afford to keep your knowledge limited to what you have learnt in college or universities. I read a lot, not only on subjects relating to law but generally, and I think it has helped me tremendously in the profession.
“Unless You Take Risks There Cannot Be Any Success In Life”
Do you recall your first major case.
After I shifted to Delhi from Madras, I did two or three important cases which I would like to mention. These cases gave me some amount of confidence and standing to me in the profession. One case is where I appeared for the widow of a priest and a head master who had been taken away by security forces in Manipur. They were Nagas and were forcefully taken away by the armed forces. I had appeared in a Habeas Corpus petition in the Supreme Court before Justice Chinnappa Reddy and Justice Desai. The name of the case was Sabastian Hongry, which is one of the earliest cases in which compensation was granted in a Habeas Corpus petition for violation of human liberties. This decision was subsequently followed up in a number of cases.
The second important case was my appearance before a constitution bench in a case relating to excessive reservation in the State of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. I argued the matter for three days before a bench presided over by the Chief Justice. I think I came to be noticed a lot because of my appearance in this case.
One other case that helped me come to notice at the bar was my appearance in the Frank Anthony Public School case, where I appeared for the school teachers.
In all these cases, I did not charge any fees. It gave me immense satisfaction. In fact, all such cases where I did not take fees have given me the most professional satisfaction.
What would you have been today, if you had not opted for law as your profession.
I would have opted to become a professional social worker, had I not become a lawyer. In fact, at the time when I was planning to leave my job, the two choices before me was the legal profession or professional social worker. But I felt that at that time there was not much recognition for a professional social worker in the Indian society. As such, I opted out of the choice of a social worker.
But today, if I have to go for an alternative, I think it would be to become a part of a think tank, which can make some contribution in establishing India as a world leader or a world power. When I say world leader and world power I mean power in economic terms, not in terms of defense or arms or territorial power. I think there is a tremendous amount of intellectual talent in our country which has not been capitalized on and needs to be encouraged. We must promote the hidden entrepreneurship in every individual. I would definitely like to associate myself with any such kind of work, which can help the country grow in terms of economic power.
Are you satisfied with your professional achievements or do you think that you have to do much more.
I do not think that anyone in life can really be satisfied whatever he has achieved. Contentment is a very desirable thing. Contentment in terms of money which you earn is desirable. But in terms of the contribution which you make to the society, I think you can never be contented. I think there is always scope for doing much more for society. I would like to do that and if there is any challenge, or a cause or need for this, I would definitely take up these challenges.
This interview was published in LawZ, November 2002 issue.