A casual call yesterday with Mohan Raman reminded me of this book. I had written a brief article about it for Madras Musings some time back which I am reproducing below:

This picture is taken from The Hindu dated Nov 2nd 2003 – http://www.hindu.com/mag/2003/11/02/stories/2003110200430400.htm

S Govind Swaminadhan was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. His father was Dr S Swaminadhan, a leading barrister of Madras who specialised in Criminal Law. He also served as Principal of the Madras Law College. Govind’s mother Ammu was a leading social activist later becoming a member of the Constituent Assembly of India and an MP. Govind was born on 9th October 1909. Govind had two sisters one of whom is the eminent dancer Mrinalini Sarabhai. The other sister is Capt Lakshmi Sehgal who actively participated in Netaji Subash Bose’s INA and was more recently the Presidential candidate of the Opposition parties in the year when Dr APJ Abdul Kalam became the President of India. Govind’s brother S Krishna Swaminadhan was a senior corporate executive.

Educated initially at St Paul’s, Darjeeling, Govind was sent off to England at the age of 12 where he later took his Bachelor’s degree from Brighton College, his Masters from Christchurch College, Oxford and the Bar at Law from the Inner Temple, Inns of Court, London.

Returning to India in 1935 he practised under the eminent lawyer VL Ethiraj, who had interestingly, begun his career under Dr Swaminadhan. Soon Govind Swaminadhan set up independent practice. In 1939 he married Sulochana Santhanam in Lahore and the couple had four children. Till the 1950s, Govind Swaminadhan was engaged in very many criminal cases and also held the office of Crown Prosecutor. One of the early cases in which he appeared as defence counsel was in the trial following the murder of Lakshmikantham. Some of the trials where he officiated as Crown Prosecutor included the Alavandar Murder Case and the City Gardner Murder Case. In later years his civil and constitutional law practice became substantial.

In 1965 he became Senior Central Government Standing Counsel. In 1969 he became Advocate-General of Tamilnadu and held that office till 1976 when he resigned in protest against the Emergency. He resumed private practice and was active in it till the 1990s. In recognition of his work in the legal sphere, the International Bar Association in 1994 conferred on him the title “The Living Legend of The Law”.

An active life in law did not mean lack of other pursuits. Govind Swaminadhan gave cricket commentaries over the AIR, was involved with the Madras Race Club, the Madras Riding Club and was Commandant of the Home Guards. He was an active member of the Madras Players in its initial years and was Founder of the Consumer Action Group. He was also President of the Bala Mandir and Chairman of the Vidyodaya School for Girls.

This eminent personality of Madras passed away on 30th September 2003.

A tribute to him, in the form of a book titled “A Gentleman Lawyer”, edited by well known lawyer Sriram Panchu and Aparna Mukherjee Vasu has recently been released. The book is a compilation of reminiscences by Mr Swaminadhan himself, several of his speeches, recollections by friends, colleagues and acquaintances and tributes from judges and juniors. The book is a delight to read and a very interesting feature is a collection of drawings by Justice V Balasubrahmanyan, which take a humorous look at life in law. This collection had been presented to Govind Swaminadhan and adds colour to the book.

Proceeds from the sale of the book will go to the Bala Mandir.