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--------------- Print Magazine --------------
 
  May 2016
 
  April 2016
 
 
 
 
AN OPEN LETTER

I have been writing few books for Universal Law Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd. My advanced age escalating and senility have weakened my memory. I am therefore inclined to make the last of my writings. I am not a passionate literary talent and have chosen to make these pages my last writings for the nonce. Actually I have written over 100 books on a variety of subjects. A large number of my judgments, all printed in law reports have a gentle literary flavour. That is why Justice Michael Kirby of the Australian High Court commented 'Krishna Iyer did not write judgments, he wrote poetry'. My independent thinking and unconventional prose have elicited complimentary appreciation. I no longer need any praise. Avni Nagaria has written a few books on me, felicitous reading. Great jurists like Fali S. Nariman have flatteringly expressed the results about me. Justice Bhagwati, a marvellous judge and jurist has described me as a judicial activist. Beautiful books with writings woven around me where I figure as a hero have filled me with pride. I am too old for the tributes any more. My present inclinations have taken a mild spiritual turn with Maharshi Mahesh Yogi, Brahmakumaris and persons of their ilk have drawn my thinking along different lines. Such for instance as my book 'Death and After'. So I wind up although books like Gitanjali of Rabindranath Tagore are my current appetite.

'The song that I came to sing remains unsung to this day.

I have spent my days in stringing and in unstringing my instrument.'

The song continues to stir my soul. My end is coming but life even after death persists in a different sphere sans material existence. What is more real to me today is my favourite verses in the Gitanjali :

DEATH, THY servant, is at my door. He has crossed the unknown sea and brought thy call to my home.

The night is dark and my heart is fearful-yet I will take up the lamp, open my gates and bow to him my welcome. It is thy messenger who stands at my door.

I will worship him with folded hands, and with tears. I will worship him placing at his feet the treasure of my heart.

He will go back with his errand done, leaving a dark shadow on my morning; and in my desolate home only my forlorn self will remain as my last offering to thee.

IN ONE salutation to thee, my God, let all my senses spread out and touch this world at thy feet.

Like a rain-cloud of July hung low with its burden of unshed showers let all my mind bend down at thy door in one salutation to thee.

Let all my songs gather together their diverse strains into a single current and flow to a sea of silence in one salutation to thee.

Like a flock of homesick cranes flying night and day back to their mountain nests let all my life take its voyage to its eternal home in one salutation to thee.

The best chapter of my life was when I wore robes, sat on the Bench and did what I thought was justice, social, economic and political. Here I end. 'Unborn tomorrow, and dead yesterday, why fret about them if today be sweet' (Fitzgerald). As I sit in retirement the lines that recur in my mind are those of Robert Frost:

'The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.'

After all when old age grips you and nothing but melancholy memories crowd your mind you think of Walt Whitman:

' I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars,

And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the egg of the wren,

And the tree toad is a chef-d'oeuvre for the highest,

And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven.'

I have been a judge and done from the bottom of my heart justice and nothing but justice and when I retired from the Supreme Court of India they gave me a favourite dinner where they said:

'Permit us to remind you that the Bar is the judge of judges and no judge can avoid or escape the verdict of the Bar. We have summoned you this evening to hear our unanimous declaratory verdict. Our verdict is a decree of affection and admiration. Let us also declare, in these proceedings which are sui generic, that we are not only your judges but also your judgment-debtors.

No words of prosaic prose would be adequate to encompass your vitality and versatility - not even if we drew upon and borrowed from the hoarded wealth of a vast vocabulary you are known to possess. We shall therefore crave your indulgence to supplement the record by those profounder feelings, which the language of the lexicon cannot communicate and which are best conveyed by the language of the heart.

In a span of a little over seven years, you have brought distinction to the highest Court of the land. Indeed you did more than that. You opened its doors wider: to the poor, the needy and the indigent. Your crusade for legal aid and law reform, your concern for and commitment to the common people, your dedication to the creed of human rights, and your allegiance to judicial independence and Rule of Law have become quintessential catalysts in our legal process. These humane contributions have endeared you to one and all and will long be cherished and remembered in and out of law reports and in and out of law courts.

There are many landmark judgments you have handed down which have helped to humanize our legal system, particularly in the field of criminal jurisprudence and jail reforms, and which have helped to resolve critical intricacies of constitutional law, harmonizing its delicate equations, optimizing fundamental rights and extending the frontiers of the accountability of the State and its instrumentalities in their ever-expanding operations. Many of your judgments have given a new dimension and a new direction to law. In many of them, you rode the unruly horse of public policy with exceptional skill, acumen and erudition and brought it to heel on the path of justice and good conscience. In some of them you rode it too hard. But there was always your shining faith in the true role and destiny of law in a developing society, which made you the lyricist, the poet-laureate and the visionary of a socially aware and socially accountable Third World jurisprudence...'

But I have been misunderstood. Yes, to be misunderstood is part of the bargain of dedication and sacrifice to make humanity's tears. No more. But misunderstanding is inevitable in a good life from the Buddha to Gandhi. In the language of Emerson:

'Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.'

 

 
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