PUCL Bulletin, June 2001

Justice T. Chandrasekhara Menon Passes Away

Alos see, PUCL Gen. Sec.'s statement

Justice T. Chandrasekhara Menon was a staunch socialist and a thorough humanist. He was born in the year 1920. He had his early education in SRV High School, Ernakulam. After graduating from Maharaja's College, Ernakulam, Shri Menon joined Madras Law College. He embraced socialist ideals when he was studying law in Madras Law College. He was the Secretary of Cochin unit of Socialist Party in its formative days.

Shri Chandrasekhara Menon started his legal career under the stewardship of Shri Achutha Menon, a veteran civil Lawyer of that time. Soon he set up independent practice. He built up a sound legal practice in civil and constitutional law. He, along with Shri K. Chandrasekharan, who later on became a State Minister in Kerala Government, a Firm of Lawyers, M/s. Chandrasekharan & Chandrasekhara Menon, which even now is one of the leading Law Firms in Kerala.

Shri Menon was elected Judge of High Court of Kerala in 1974. He was always known as a socialist Judge who always stood for the weaker section of the people. He had strong political conviction and social vision. Personal Liberty and Freedom were subjects which were very dear to his heart. In one of the landmark decisions Justice Menon held that a person could not be denied appointment in government service solely for the reason of his political views. He also rendered the famous Broastal School case wherein he directed the government to set up Childrens Court in Kerala under Children Act. He expanded the judicial canvass under Article 226 of Constitution by judicial pronouncement against various instrumentalities of Government under writ jurisdiction of the High Court. In 1983 he held that writ could be issued to Manager of a private educational institution. Such a view was not judicially acceptable at that time. The said view has recently been accepted by the Supreme Court. Justice Menon always walked ahead of his time. In another case he held that order of preventive detention could be challenged by the detenue without surrendering to the authorities. There was some difficulty in the legal circle to accept the said view. However, 6 years later, Supreme Court, in another case, accepted the said view. Justice Menon was of the strong view that detention of whatsoever nature, without trial is barbaric and unconstitutional. He strongly argued for abolition of preventive detention laws. He was also against death penalty. His judgment in Malankara Sabha case runs into 900 pages. The judgment is considered to be the longest ever written judgment in the history of High Court of Kerala.

After retirement, Shri Menon was appointed member of Publicmen's Corruption Commission under Public Men (Prevention of Corruption) Act 1983, an Act to inquire into corruption charges against public servants and public men. He was also appointed as Judicial Commission to inquire into many important issues, the latest of which was the Commission to inquire into the accident occurred at Sabarimala, a Hindu pilgrimage, where several pilgrims died and many injured seriously in a stampede and the resultant landslide. Shri Menon in his report held the government was responsible and was grossly negligent in not preventing the accident and recommended payment of compensation to the victims and their kith and kin. Shri Menon was also the Chairman of Jail Review Committee.

Shri Menon was closely associated with PUCL from its formative days and was the President of Karalla unit of PUCL. He was also the President of Pensioner's Association. During his last days he was engaged in giving free legal advice and help to the poor and needy. When two tribal youths were assaulted at Attapady, a tribal belt, Shri Menon, in spite of failing health and inclement weather, went to the tribal area, conducted an enquiry, and sent a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission. He also took active part in mobilising and educating the tribals to fight against the recent anti-tribal land law, namely, Kerala Schedule Tribes (Restriction of Transfer of Land and Restoration of Alientated Land) Act, 1999, which took away the land of the tribal in favour of the settlers. A writ petition filed by PUCL in Kerala High Court on the advice of Shri Menon was allowed by the High Court and the offending provisions of the said Act have been struck down.

Shri Menon has always been an inspiration to the human rights activists, especially members of PUCL, in Kerala. Sudden demise of Shri Menon is a great loss to the human rights movement in Kerala, especially to PUCL. The vacuum created by the absence of Shri Menon will remain unfilled.

-- P. Chandrasekhar, General Secretary, PUCL Kerala

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