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Aug 4, 2008

Doyen of Coimbatore Criminal Bar

The litigants have started losing confidence in courts because of the inordinate delay, the doyen of Coimbatore Criminal Bar, K.A.Ramachandran tells G. Satyamurty.The 80-year old lawyer, who started practising 56 years ago, is credited with having a success rate of more than 95 per cent. Mr. Ramachandran, the only one of the six sons of K.S.Ardhanareeswara Iyer to have chosen his father’s profession, is an icon of Coimbatore legal fraternity. He has appeared in several courts all over Tamil Nadu and Kerala and took up many high profile cases, including the cause of Jayaram Padickal, the Kerala DIG, in the famous Rajan murder case, during the Emergency period. One who never thought of becoming a judge, because of what he calls ‘temperament,’ he is categorical that mofussil lawyers are very well equipped.

Twice president of the Coimbatore Bar Association, he played a major role in celebrating its centenary. Though he was instrumental in bringing a law college to Coimbatore with the help of the first Vice-Chancellor of Bharathiar University, G.R. Damodaran, his major regret is that he could not get even a Circuit Bench of the Madras High Court to Coimbatore despite Coimbatore being ‘very well equipped.’



After all, it was Coimbatore where the Madras High Court functioned in 1942-43 during the World War. “Coimbatore has an excellent Bar, good buildings for the court and also an excellent library. Even the Jaswant Singh Commission did recommend a Circuit Bench.” Unfortunately it is the lack of political clout that has left Coimbatore high and dry, he says.Mr. Ramachandran reflects on his early days when judgments used to be delivered pretty early and the current scenario of courts remaining overloaded. He points out that in 1950s and 1960s, even the sessions trial was completed within three months.



“Then we used to have a day-to-day trial, including on Saturday, and judgments were delivered within four to five days on completion of the trial. The Rajan case, which was transferred to Coimbatore from Kerala, had a day-to-day trial and the judgment was delivered in a fortnight. Now it takes even 10 years.” Even witnesses are not examined fast. There is a quite a lot of interregnum between the examination of witnesses. This allows the witnesses to meet one another and come to know of others’ deposition. This might result in travesty of justice. Above all, even the committal to sessions court takes time because the sessions court does not have original jurisdiction.



He refuses to buy the argument that the delay is because of too many adjournments sought by the lawyers. “After all lawyer is just one among the participants in the trial. Even securing the presence of witnesses has become very difficult and judges at times have to issue NBW against police officers. Getting documents might also take time.” Though it is spelt out in Cr.PC that trials should be on day-to-day basis, such trials are not in vogue at all. Judgments are not pronounced on time and ultimately the litigant suffers. Because of ‘docket explosion,’ which is the result of increase in population, crime and police stations, courts are overloaded.



“As against two judges in Coimbatore Sessions Court in 1952, now there are eight. Even this is not sufficient because of the huge pendency. We should have more courts and judges all over the country,” he says.In the olden days, most of the judges used to frown upon written arguments. “Now it has become almost necessary.” Mr.Ramachandran is totally opposed to the ‘norms’ stipulated for the judges regarding the number of cases to be disposed of within a certain period. “This definitely affects the quality of judgment and hence should be revised.”



While Lok Adalats have proved to be quite helpful in settling a large number of civil cases, he advocates the system of ‘plea bargin’ in criminal cases. “Though this was introduced some time ago, it is yet to be effectively implemented. For this, some judicial officers should be trained. If it were done so, it could bring down the number of criminal cases as well.” On charges of corruption against legal fraternity, he attributes them to ‘general erosion of values.’

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