The Telugu World Column No- 44
Many Great Telugus in all Fields
It was only after I wrote some articles in this series that I realized what a foolish and difficult task I had undertaken. It is an almost impossible task to list all great people of any linguistic or religious community — all writers, scientists, artistes, singers, doctors or lawyers — leave alone writing about them, as some are bound to be left out and no disclaimer will pardon their omission if they are really gate. Some who are very well known to all could have been left out by oversight and it does not matter as they need no introduction, but some great achievers of the past cannot be ignored, as this generation may not know them and they need to be known. This is true of every community, for all have many eminent persons and. As outs is an ancient civilization with centuries of history, some are bound to be forgotten. Books can be written on the history of every linguistic community in the country as we need to be reminded of past glory.
Earlier some great writers, scientists, artists, performers, politicians and doctors were written about but there was no mention of lawyers, who form an important segment of the society, constituting a majority of politicians and elected people. Though the Telugu states had great lawyers, only one Telugu could be the Chief Justice of India so far. He was Koka Subbarao, born in 1902 at Rajamahendravaram. He joined the office of his father-in-law, Adv, P. Venkata Raman Rao Naidu, who was earlier the junior of the Andhra Kesari T.Prakasam. He worked as District Munsif for a few months in Bapatla. When Raman Rao became a Judge of Madras High Court, Subbarao joined his brother-in-law P. V. Rajamannar, who later became Advocate General and Chief Justice of Madras High Court. He was elevated as judge in 1948.
After the separation of Andhra, and the Andhra Pradesh High Court was established in Guntur in 1954, the CM, Prakasam, insisted on having Subbarao as the Special Officer to set up the High Court and he automatically became its first Chief Justice. He was the first chancellor first Chancellor of Sri Venkateswara University at Tirupati in 1954 and remained so till the Chancellorship was restored to the Governor. He was appointed as a Supreme Court judge on 31 January 1958 and as Chief Justice of India in 1966. He is remembered for the verdict in a landmark case, Golaknath v. State of Punjab, ruling that the fundamental rights could not be amended. Subbarao retired in 1967 to contest in the fourth presidential elections put up by the combined Opposition. He lost. He died in1977.
The ‘Tynampet lawyers’ of Chennai were very famous once. Most of them were Telugus and very rich. One of them was Tanguturi Prakasam Pantulu who was given ‘Andhra Kesari’ (Lion of Andhra) title by Gandhi when he dared the British police to fire on him as he stood bare-chested before them as a freedom fighter. He sacrificed all his wealth for the movement, became the first CM of Andhra when it was formed with Kurnool as temporary capital, was ousted from the post and died a pauper.
A Telugu Judge of the Supreme Court, Jasti Chalameswar, who retired in 2018, made news by joining three other judges of the same bench by addressing a Press conference and for his clash with the CJI Justice Depak Mishra, alleging motivated manipulation in allotment of cases to the judges or Benches. All media reported that it was the first Press Conference ever held by judges, having forgotten, or not being aware, of the Press conference by thee SC Judges when Indira Gandhi superseded a senior to appoint a judge of her choice as the CJI in her bid for a ‘committed judiciary’. Perhaps none of the reporters who packed the small room (some I saw standing on the windows) were working anymore.
According to India Today, “Justice J. Chelameswar has been known for some unconventional moments in.” He is supposed to have been at loggerheads with the CJI and it was widely discussed that delay in his elevation to the SC robbed him of the chance to be the next Chief Justice. The reason for the delay, it was being whispered, was the opposition by a member of the collegium who had to be, convinced by the other members on his merit later. He was opposed due to a minor incident when Justice Chalameswar was Chief Justice of the Guwahati HC which had an arrangement of reciprocity with the Calcutta HC. His mentioning, to his colleagues, a deficiency in services to him during a flight to Guwahati is said to be the cause for abruptly ending the reciprocal arrangement between the two HCs, resulting in a Calcutta HC judge who landed with his family in Guwahati that very evening having to make arrangements for himself. Justice Chelameswar did not attend collegium meetings and, instead, would view and give his decisions on appointment in his own chambers or through rotation.