Tag Archives: Madras High Court

Murder Most Foul: Part 4 – The Trial and the Judgement


.Myself

By T. V. Antony Raj

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Fiat justitia ruat caelum
(‘Let justice be done though the heavens fall.’)

Fiat justitia ruat caelum

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A team of Madras City Police travelled to Bombay in search of the Menons. With the help of the Bombay police, they traced the relatives with whom the Menons were staying.

When the police arrived, Devaki Menon who had undergone an abortion was resting at the home of her husband’s relatives. Prabhakara Menon was not there. He had gone out and the police traced him to the Chowpatty Beach, Girgaum. Menon had shaved off his moustache, nevertheless, the police recognized him. One member of the Madras police took out a fountain pen from Menon’s pocket. The pen had the initials of Alavandar.

The police arrested Devaki and Prabhakara Menon. A Bombay City Magistrate charging them with the murder of Alavandar, and other miscellaneous charges, remanded them to custody. The arrested couple was brought to Madras.

A team of top Madras police officials investigated the murder and gathered evidence for the trial assisted by Dr N. Pitchandi and Dr C.B. Gopalakrishna, the Police Surgeon, Madras, and consultant for a few other states in India, and to the Indian Army.

The Malabar knife used by Prabhakara Menon to decapitate and amputate the body of the dead Alavandar, which he later threw in a park in Broadway, Madras, was found by the park attendant, who in turn gave it to his mistress. The police recovered it from the woman to include it as evidence. They found the shop where Menon bought it on the morning of the killing.

The police also found the blood-stained sari worn by Devaki Menon at the time of the murder, and while helping her husband to dismember the dead body.

As there were no eyewitnesses to Alavandar’s murder, the police tried to make a deal with Devaki Menon by suggesting that she would be given the state’s pardon for her role in the murder if she gave evidence against her husband. But she turned down the offer since she believed that her husband killed Alavandar to save her honour.

The Trial

The trial came up for hearing at the Madras High Court Original Criminal Sessions before the renowned Judge, Mr Justice A. S. P. Iyer (Ayilam Subramania Panchapakesan Iyer).

The eminent lawyer S. Govind Swaminathan was the State Prosecutor. Advocates B.T. Sundararajan and S. Krishnamurthy appeared for the two accused.

The trial by jury was then in force in Madras High Court. A panel of nine jurors, some of whom were noted citizens of Madras, was sworn in was sworn in.

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HOARY HALL - A view of a hall in the Madras High Court (Photo: K. N. Chari)
HOARY HALL – A view of a hall in the Madras High Court (Photo: K. N. Chari)

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Large crowds thronged at the hearings of this sensational trial. On March 13, 1953, according to the Indian Express, “… the crowd in the courtroom became unmanageable, delaying the proceedings.”

The next day was no different. The veranda, leading to the court hall, was so crowded it made entry into the court hall difficult. The police bundobusts (arrangements) were meagre, and reserve police were called in.

The couple, Prabhakara Menon and his wife Devaki, pleaded “not guilty” to the various charges including murder.

The prosecutor Govind Swaminathan built up a strong case of a planned murder of Alavandar by the couple. He stated that the servant boy of the Menons told the police that he heard Menon and Devaki discuss the ways to get rid of Alavandar and that Prabhakara Menon had pressurized his wife to bring Alavandar to their house so that he could give the devil his due. It was a case of killing the snake that strayed into one’s home.

Defending advocate, B. T. Sundararajan, argued that the killing was not pre-meditated as suggested by the prosecution. Prabhakara Menon was provoked to murderous fury by the playboy who assailed his wife Devaki in their own house, with the intention of having sex with her against her will. The defence lawyer stated: “It was done out of grave provocation and in self-defence. It is a homicide and not murder.

What is the difference between “homicide” and “murder”? In fact, most people use these two terms interchangeably.

A homicide is the killing of one human being by another. The killing may be accidental or intentional; it may or may not be done with criminal intent. If one kills a man accidentally or in self-defence, it would be considered “homicide”; similarly, if one runs over an individual intentionally, it would be considered “homicide”. It is a neutral term. So, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter and vehicular homicide all are types of homicides that are not murders.

Black’s Law Dictionary edited by the world’s foremost American legal lexicographer, Bryan A. Garner, is the definitive legal resource for American lawyers, law students and laypeople alike. It is known for its clear and precise legal definitions, substantive accuracy, and stylistic clarity – making it the most cited legal dictionary in print. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, the word homicide merely “describes the act, it pronounces no judgment on the moral or legal quality”.

Murder, on the other hand, is an illegal act that usually involves some degree of premeditation or intention to kill. Murder is punishable by death under Article 302 of the Indian Penal Code.

The word “murder” has a negative connotation associated with it. The police force in the United States has a Homicide Department, but not a Murder Department.

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The Judgement

Gavel

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Justice A. S. P. Iyer, a person ingrained in the ancient Hindu tradition opined that the victim, Alavandar, the scallywag, was a disgrace to humanity and deserved to be eliminated. He considered the killing as a “justifiable execution of an unwanted rascal.”

After the lengthy trial, Justice A. S. P. Iyer’s summing-up to the jury swerved in favour of the two accused. He accepted and supported the sudden and grave provocation theory put forward by the defence, taking into consideration the interests of the society and its morals. However, some people felt that his indulgence towards the accused couple from Kerala prejudiced because he too hailed from Kerala, from the agraharam in Ayilam Gramam, 320 km from Palakkad. However, the jury returned a unanimous verdict of ‘guilty’ against both the accused.

However, the jury returned a unanimous verdict of guilty against both the accused.

On August 13, 1953, accepting the verdict of the Jury, Justice A. S. P. Iyer sentenced Prabhakara Menon to seven years rigorous imprisonment for culpable homicide and Devaki to three years in prison.

The top police officials who were eager to get the maximum punishment of death by hanging for Prabhakara Menon, the first accused, were sorely disappointed by the sentence.

Menon wanted to appeal against the sentence. But his lawyer, B.T. Sundararajan, advised him not to, now that he had escaped with a light sentence thanks to the judge. Menon accepted his lawyer’s advice and did not appeal.

The Menons were released early due to their good conduct in prison, and they shifted back to their native state, Kerala. In their prayer room, the couple placed a photo of Justice A.S.P.  Iyer along with the gods and goddesses venerated by them.

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← Previous: Part 3 – The Killing

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Justice K. Chandru “A People’s Judge” Retires


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Justice Chandru
Justice K. Chandru

In India and elsewhere, when a High Court Judge retires, it is usual for all the judges of the High Court would to assemble a meeting in the Court of the Chief justice and the Advocate General would deliver a farewell speech followed by a photo session, high tea and dinner in a five-star hotel. However, Justice K. Chandru, who served as a judge of the Madras High Court for the past sevens years, did not want this ritual farewell. In a letter to the acting chief justice R K Agrawal, dated February 8, 2013, Justice Chandru requested him not to order the farewell ritual for him as he would like to leave office quietly.

The last time a judge declined a farewell function was in 1929, when Justice Jackson told the Advocate General, “I have done my job; where is the question of a farewell for me?”

Friday, March 8, was the last day in office for Justice Chandru. He submitted a copy of his ‘voluntary declaration of assets’ to acting Chief Justice R K Agrawal. After returning to his chambers, he signed a few documents. From there he went to the press room and e spent a few happy moments with the journalists who had assembled there,  answering their queries.

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Justice Chandru on his way to MRTS station. — (Photo - Deccan Chronicle)
Justice K. Chandru on his way to MRTS station. — (Photo: Deccan Chronicle)

After leaving the court premises, he walked up to Sangeetha Restaurant across NSC Bose Road. A group of friends was waiting there, and he had coffee with them. From there he walked up to the Beach Station and boarded a suburban MRTS train bound for Velacherry.

Posted as an Additional Judge of the High Court on July 31, 2006 , Justice K. Chandru became a Permanent Judge on November 9, 2009. He had disposed of nearly 96,000 cases, both at the Principal Seat and at the Madurai Bench. He is altogether a different kind of Judge. Known for his simplicity, he shunned some of the accoutrements that usually accompanied a Judge. He disliked pomp and pageantry. He was a role model for others.

    • He dispensed with the practice of his duffedar carrying a mace while escorting him to the court and returning to his chamber.
    • He did not have a gun-toting personal security officer (PSO) beside him.
    • He did not have official servants at home.
    • He did not approve lawyers calling him “my lord”.

Justice Chandru would be remembered for several of his landmark judgments including a ruling that women could become priests in Hindu temples.

Regrettably, the websites of Madras High Court that carry the bio data of its judges has no links to details about Justice K. Chandru. For example, the page, “The Honourable Judges of the Madras High Court,” lists the name of 48 judges, but Justice Chandru’s name though listed does not link to any page with details about him. With his retirement, the strength of the Madras High Court has come down  to 47 judges while the sanctioned strength is  60.

A notice displayed at the entrance to his chamber declared:

No deities – no Flowers
No one is hungry – no Fruits
No one is shivering—no Shawls
We need only best wishes

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Stop Kudankulam fuelling, lives are at stake!


By Dr. A .Gopalakrishnan (a past chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board)

English: Internationally recognized symbol. De...

The government, through its Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), the Nuclear Power Corporation Limited (NPCIL), and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) is racing to bring the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project, Unit-1 (KNPP-1) to full-power operation at the earliest. The questions predominantly troubling the conscientious public today are simply these: Is the Kudankulam Unit-1 ready for introduction of nuclear fuel assemblies into its core (‘fuelling’), having fully completed all the safety modifications and additions recommended by AERB’s Post-Fukushima Committee to Review Safety of Indian Nuclear Power Plants? What other mandatory, pre-fuelling safety-related tasks such as conducting proper emergency drills in villages within a 30 km-radius of the reactors remain? What are the serious implications to public safety if NPCIL and AERB move forward with fuelling activity and bring this reactor to its full power of 1000 MWe in the current state of inadequate and incomplete safety status?

On some of the glaring defaults of the current actions of the DAE, NPCIL and the AERB vis-à-vis KNPP-1, there are three Special Leave Petitions (SLPs) currently before the Supreme Court of India. The next hearing of one SLP that seriously pleads for stopping fuelling activity is set for September 27. As early as on March 26, 2012 , a writ petition (no. 8262) was filed in the Madras High Court for a direction against the DAE, NPCIL, AERB and others to implement all the recommendations of the AERB’s Post-Fukushima Report before fuel-loading is started. In response, the AERB counsel informed the court , “— that before initial fuel loading is done, the compliance of all the requirements under Annexure-8 (of the AERB report) will be ensured by the AERB and it is only after its satisfaction any direction (for loading fuel) will be given—” . Subsequently , the High Court decided to reserve its orders on August 2, 2012 , pending detailed judgement to follow.

n the interim, since the court had not imposed any stay on actions by NPCIL and AERB, chairman, AERB, used this opportunity to issue a clearance for initial fuel loading of KNPP-1 on August 10 after reviews by their internal committees. The original petitioner then filed yet another writ petition (no. 22253) in the Madras HC on August 13, challenging the fuel-loading clearance given by AERB, even while 11 out of the 17 safety recommendations of the AERB’s Post-Fukushima Report still remained to be implemented. AERB, in reply to this writ petition, submitted two affidavits, first one on August 18 and another on August 22.

he post-Fukushima evaluations by an independent AERB committee, headed by a past chairman of the AERB had recommended 17 safety upgrades in Annexure-8 of its report. The committee, however, did not sort these on the basis of relative importance, urgency or priority. The sense you get from this report is that all 17 corrective steps are equally important and AERB must insist on all of them being fully implemented and tested before fuel-loading is permitted. This is consistent with the affidavit earlier submitted to the Madras HC by Mr R. Suresh Kumar, counsel for AERB, “ — that before initial fuel loading is done, the compliance of all the requirements under Annexure-8 will be ensured by the AERB and it is only after its satisfaction that any direction will be given—–” .

However, in their affidavits to the same court on August 18 and 22, AERB reversed its stand by stating, “—recommendations in Annexure-8 of the Post-Fukushima Report were considered (by the internal AERB committees) during review of the application for fuel loading submitted by NPCIL. The review indicated that KNPP-1 has adequate safety measures against external events — In order to further enhance safety , as an abundant measure , some additional safety enhancements proposed by NPCIL were reviewed in depth and accepted for implementation in a phased manner.”

“Based on the review and resolution of NPCIL submissions, AERB agreed for short-term (less than six months) and long-term ( less than two years) implementation of the Post-Fukushima recommendations from the date of the fuel-loading clearance”.

Ultimately, the Madras HC did not agree with the plea of the protesters for full implementation of Annexure-8 safety steps before fuel loading is initiated and the matter is now being heard by the Supreme Court. Even as the Supreme Court hearings are going on, the NPCIL and the AERB are already loading the nuclear fuel into KNPP-1.

What the AERB has done is a total volte face of its earlier stated positions in the Madras HC, and contrary to the spirit and recommendations of the AERB Post-Fukushima Safety Evaluation Committee.

This has happened because the DAE, NPCIL and AERB appear to be under the direct control of the PMO on the Kudankulam issue, and none of them dares to take any decisions on their own.

The PM, is for months accused in the national and international press for India’s policy paralysis, the dwindling performance of the power sector, and for substantial slippage in the execution schedules of many major projects. During his last two visits to Russia, the PM promised expeditious completion of KNPP-1&2. The local protests at site have put a monkey wrench into his promises and timetable. PM and his PMO consider their face-saving to be more important than the possibility of imperiling the lives of people living near KNPP-1, and appear to have clearly instructed the DAE-AERB combine to rush through with commissioning the plant. The subservient DAE and AERB seem to be complying with his directions.

In this hurried approach to starting the KNPP-1 project, what essential safety precautions are the NPCIL and AERB tossing by the wayside? As per current plans, the reactor will be operated at least for the first two years or more at the full power level of 1000 MWe, without its primary containment being assessed for its ultimate load-bearing capacity; without the availability of a portable diesel-powered unit with sensors and instrumentation to monitor essential safety parameters in case of a total blackout; in the absence of a set of mobile self-powered pumping set for emergency area use; without rectifying the serious inadequacies in instrumentation for independent monitoring of plant status during major accidents; and without the addition of mobile back-up power units like air-cooled diesel sets. Why each of these actions should take as long as 24 months to complete is unimaginable, but these actions have to be indeedexpedited, since they are all essential for mitigating the consequences of a major accident.

The AERB committee has also strongly recommended the urgent installation of an additional seismically-qualified 8,000 cubic-meter capacity back-up water storage tank as an alternate source for use under emergency situations where such actions as injection of borated water into the core and into the spent-fuel pool, charging water into the steam generator secondary side, etc will require excessive amounts of water. The already provided emergency water-storage facility has not been seismically-qualified and may not withstand moderate earthquakes. This anomaly has to be urgently rectified through analysis and repair. This existing storage was also found to be inadequate in holding capacity , for removing decay heat for a period of a minimum one week . This too is to be rectified. In case of a beyond design basis accident (BDBA), the emergency operating procedures to be used are still to be formulated and documented, to help impart training on BDBA to the operating staff.

It is more than 16 months since the Fukushima accident occurred and NPCIL has not even started planning for these procedures. Each of the above tasks is put in for “short-term” completion, namely, within the next six months. I doubt whether a satisfactory completion of many of these tasks can be achieved in six months, each may take more like one year at least.

As it stands, the important point to note is that NPCIL and AERB are NOT going to carry out any of the short or long-term tasks mentioned above, before the reactor is fuelled and brought to 1000 MWe power level. This approach is totally unacceptable from the safety point of view. Whether these 17 safety corrections are implemented or not, the probability of a major accident will remain more or less the same. But, ALL these safety corrections are necessary to ensure that the mitigation of the consequences will be far more acceptable with the corrections implemented than without, and these safety corrections will provide a distinctly safer environment for populations around the KNPP-1. Therefore, ALL the above-mentioned long-term and short-term safety corrections recommended by the AERB committee must be completed before the reactor is fuelled. Whatever fuel so far loaded into the core can be taken out safely and stored for future use.

The author Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan is a past chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).

Reproduced from DNA

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Standing in a Woman’s Shoes


By Prabha Sridevan

The Madras High Court has played a stellar role in the evolution of gender justice in its 150 years of existence, setting the trend for social change through its rulings.

Physical, social and economic vulnerability affects men and women differently. Social structures give automatic advantages to the male or result in undeserved disadvantages to the female. Unless there is a positive affirmation of a woman’s rights, her voice will not be heard. This affirmation must come from the courts. The Madras High Court has played a stellar role in the evolution of gender justice. On its 150th anniversary, it is fitting to recall this contribution.

THREE GROUPS

I have categorised the cases that the Court has dealt with in this regard into three groups — the pre-Constitution period, 1950-2000, and the 21st century — with the full awareness that any list of “my favourites” is liable to be criticised.

In the pre-Constitution period, when the right to equality and special provisions for women were not enshrined as law, we find in the Madras High Court a remarkable recognition of the woman’s right to property, to dignity and in fact a recognition of woman as just herself and not as an adjunct to man as father, husband or son.

As early as in 1864, in Chalakonda Alasani vs. Chalakonda Ratnachalam, the Court held that the rules applicable to a coparcenary for custody of the properties and the separate ownership of self-acquisitions were applicable to female members of a devadasi community living jointly. It was dealt with as if it was a family. Nowadays, the concept of what constitutes a family may no longer be based on marriage or heterosexual ties. From that perspective, this judgment is indeed very modern.

The right to dignity of a woman was seen as an indefeasible right by the Court. In Ramnath Zamindar and Anr vs. Doraiswami (1882), the claim to legitimacy by the son of a dancing girl was upheld. The Court empathised with her reluctance to expose herself to insensitive cross-examination. In Parvathi vs. Mannar (1884), the Bench held that the English law insisting upon proof of special damage in a case of libel against a married woman would not apply under the customs and social context of this country. In both cases, the Court looked at the issue “standing in her shoes.”

Does the husband have the right to beat his wife? Such a misconception is still prevalent. But in Emperor vs. Subbaiah Goundan (1936), the Court was clear that no husband had such a right, “… and wife-beating is not eo nomine one of the exceptions in the Chapter of ‘General Exceptions’ in the Indian Penal Code … We think it necessary to state in unmistakable terms that the learned sessions judge’s declaration of the rights of husbands in this regard has no foundation, so that no one may rely upon that in future as a justification for wife-beating.” Behind the wry humour, we can sense the Court’s pain.

In re Boya Chinnappa, our Court held that the prosecutrix in a rape case cannot be treated “as if she were an accomplice so far as her credibility is concerned.” Yet how often our Courts have even in later cases treated her exactly like that and she is repeatedly victimised during the trial!

In the 50-year period that covers the second group of cases, women were moving out of their homes to seek employment, and women were also moved out of their homes because of divorce or desertion. The courts had to deal with these issues.

But first, let us look at the right to dignity again. In re Ratnamala and Another(1962), the judge held “I must reiterate that the modesty of a prostitute is entitled to equal protection, with that of any other woman. The technique of such raids must be totally altered; otherwise, grave abuses of the law might enter into the very attempt to enforce the law.” Even today, this declaration that her right to dignity is non-negotiable needs to be reiterated!

In Srinivasa Padayachi v. Parvathiammal (1969), the question was whether the pre-nuptial settlement deed was valid. The Court said: “’Marriage may be a sacrament under Hindu Law, but that does not militate against the existence of a contract for the marriage.” The tone is so modern, affirming that the factum of marriage will not destroy the woman’s contractual rights.

Divorce undeniably renders a woman economically very vulnerable, and the Court set right the imbalance. In Soundarammal vs. Sundara Mahalinga Nadar (1980), the Court observed that the laws of divorce should not result in merely wrapping the wronged woman with decree copies of alimony but that the alimony awarded should compensate her for her loss and should be realised uninterruptedly and fully. In Ameer Amanullah vs Pedikkaru Mariam Beevi (1985), the Court held that the statutory obligation to provide maintenance to the wife and children transcends personal law and operates irrespective of caste, creed or religion.

By 1985, women in employment were commonplace, and views that a woman’s rightful place was in the hearth were no longer acceptable. But patriarchal bias still permeated public spaces. The Court held in Sivanarul v. State of Tamil Nadu that a woman cannot be removed from work because she was married. In Rukmani vs. The Divisional Manager, Marapalam Tea Division, the Court held that it was obnoxious and arbitrary to ask a woman to produce a “no objection” certificate from her husband to get a job. In R. Vasantha v. Union of India, the woman insisted that she shall not be excluded from employment in the night shift. The Court agreed, “This social change must necessarily have its impact upon the traditional perspectives concerning woman’s role and that must call for change in our laws … to advance the constitutional guarantees…” A true trendsetter.

A minor girl asserted that her father had no right to terminate her pregnancy. And the Court agreed in V. Krishnan vs G. Rajan @ Madipu Rajan. It is a significant decision for its admirable prescience in recognising, though tacitly, a girl’s right over her body without being trapped by extraneous questions. It said that the Constitution does not distinguish between minors and adults when it concerns fundamental rights.

In the Chidambaram Padmini case and the Meera Nireshwalia case, the very spaces that ought to be safe for a woman victimised her. In the former, the complainant was raped in a police station; in the latter, her home became a hazard. The husband, in collusion with the person who had bought her property, had termed her insane and confined her in an asylum with the help of the police. In both cases, the court showed its stern disapproval and awarded compensation.

Facing or prosecuting a matrimonial case is not easy for the woman. In Janaki vs. V. Sundaram, reminding the Family Courts about their role, the High Court held: “A starving wife cannot be compelled to face the trial. The very purpose of establishing a Family Court is to have a different atmosphere in regard to settlement of family problems. Family Court must instill faith and confidence in parties.”

This is live equality, not pedantic equality that treats two unequal persons as equal.

TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

Now we move to the 21st century when women are turning agents of change and the Court has facilitated the process. Two women claimed that they must be appointed as members of a public trust in Lalitha Sundari and another vs. Kedarnathan (2002). The Court relied on CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women), to which India is a signatory and held that there can be no discrimination against women regarding appointment to public office, and upheld their claim.

The wife who was not allowed to enter her marital home contended that it was a shared household and in Vandana vs Srikanth (2007), the Court proactively construed the concept of a “shared household” and secured her space. It was a nascent Act, and a narrow interpretation would have defeated the purpose of the enactment. And in M. Palani vs Meenakshi (2008) the Court held that maintenance can be claimed by a woman in a domestic relationship, based on consensual sex regardless of its duration. The glass ceilings in the religious space are the hardest to shatter. In Pinniyakkal vs. District Collector and ors(2008), the woman said that she had the right to be a pujari (priest) in a temple and the High Court protected her right, observing “The altars of the God must be made free from gender bias.”

The Courts did not forget the homemaker either. In National Insurance Co. vs. Minor Deepika and others, the High Court put an economic value to the work done by the homemaker. It invoked the CEDAW principles affirming her right to dignity. Turning to working women in the workplace and their right to be free of sexual harassment, the Court, in Srinivas Rajan vs Director of Matriculation Schools, said, “The Special Committee which enquired into the allegations made by the women staff … had clearly forgotten the real import of the Vishakha case.” A woman who has been widowed is traditionally expected to retire from public space but in R. Malathy vs. Director-General of Police, the woman fought for her right to continue in police service, and she succeeded. This judgment traces the history of injustice inflicted on widows. One sees that in this period, the Court has looked at gender equality from many angles.

True, the woman has not always succeeded. But as we celebrate the 150th year of a great High Court, I wish only to record the triumphs (certainly not all of them) in this humble tribute. There have been failures, but the time to dissect them is not now.

(Prabha Sridevan, a former Judge of the Madras High Court, is Chairperson, Intellectual Property Appellate Board.)

Reproduced from The Hindu, September 21, 2012.

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Kudankulam: Anti-nuclear Protest Reignites Despite Prohibitory Orders


Antinuclear Protesters at Kudankulam

Officials of the Koodankulam atomic power plant announced that the loading of enriched uranium fuel in the first of the two nuclear reactors would take place around September 11.

On Monday, September 10, police in Tirunelveli District clashed with the antinuclear agitators protesting against the Koodankulam atomic power project. The police asked the protesters to disperse citing the prohibitory orders. However, a great number of people tried to march towards the power plant, and got injured when the police tried to stop them.

Police attack Antinuclear Protesters at Kudankulam
Police attack Antinuclear Protesters at Kudankulam

Ms. J. Jayalalithaa, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu said the police lobbed tear-gas shells to protect themselves, the power plant, and also to prevent harm to the general public if the plant came under attack.

At Manappadu in Tuticorin District, police fired at a crowd of antinuclear agitators killing Anthony John, a 48-year-old fisherman. Ms. Jayalalithaa defended the police action. She said a policeman opened fire in self-defence when a mob tried to burn a temporary police post. Expressing her sympathies, she announced a relief of Rs 5 lakhs to the family of the victim.

Chief Minister Ms. Jayalalithaa belittled the protestors saying it was not proper to agitate since the Madras High Court has approved the nuclear project. She appealed to people not to fall prey to the “designs” of antinuclear lo lobbyists.

Environment watchdog Greenpeace has condemned the Tamil Nadu government for its crackdown and use of force on protestors. A statement issued in New Delhi on Monday by Greenpeace campaigner Karuna Raina says, “The commissioning of a nuclear power plant should not happen without consensus with the stakeholders. In the case of Kudankulam, local villages are the biggest stakeholders. Since the power plant is in their backyard, their consent is required.” The statement further said, “Greenpeace stands in solidarity with the people of Kudankulam and their struggle for justice.

The human rights group, Amnesty International India, also urged the government to exercise restraint. Their Chief Executive G Ananthapadmanabhan in a statement said, “The Indian authorities should exercise restraint and ensure that the police response does not amount to excessive use of force.

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Women’s Voices from Kudankulam: Are We Not Alive?


 by S. ANITHA

AUGUST 31, 2012

English: Internationally recognized symbol. De...

As I sit here in my home village of Idinthikara watching the hot sun light up the waves rolling onto the shores, I think of the news that has hit the world today about the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant. All of you must have seen the news that the Madras High Court has given the go-ahead for the KKNPP.

Koodankulam protesters - Are We Not Alive?
Koodankulam protesters – Are We Not Alive?

When we carried the dead body of democracy and burnt it in the outskirts of our village on Aug15th, 2012, little did we realize that so soon we would witness the real death of democracy. As this last nail is being tightened on our lives, we realize how insignificant has been our voice. But this has only strengthened our vow to be together.

As I think aloud with my friends gathered here rolling beedis and contemplating our future, I wonder who can give clearance without getting the consent of all of us who live so close to the plant. For over 2 decades, we have waited for some form of consultation with us about issues and doubts that have troubled our minds. Apart from generalized assurances with statements like It is Safe and There will be no problems, we have not been given any answers. Are we not still living here and are we not expected to live here? Or do we not exist or have become transparent like the people of Hiroshima who just vanished as they walked along the streets?

As we talk this afternoon with the wind blowing over the Neem trees and bending the branches of the drumstick tree, it is our minds that are getting loaded-

Anxious Fishermen and the Koodankulam Nuclear Plant
Anxious Fishermen and the Koodankulam Nuclear Plant

We realize while cleaning the sardines and mackerels that came into our houses this morning that the Environmental Clearance given for the KKNPP is not appropriate or legal. What study can vouch for the safety of the KKNPP? Has the scientific team who did the study ever asked us about the fishes and other animals that have provided us with life for generations? Do they know the seasonality of the species, the variations in currents and tides, the changes in the seas as seasons change? Do they mention the rich wedge bank offshore that is home to many species that sustain our lives? What have they said about the abundant catch of prawns and lobsters? Who can decide that 45 degree centigrade or 35 degree centigrade is the permissible heat in which life forms will be safe? Will the water not contain substances with radiation? Is there a limit called permissible for radiation? Even children know that in the case of radiation, any dose is an overdose.

We look at our homes and the sea avidly- because we are afraid this will all become an Exclusion zone as we have seen in Fukushima and Chernobyl. We might have to go away from here gathering all our belongings. Where will we go and how will we survive? We know of no life away from the sea. Our men are so dependant on the waters of the sea. Away from her, our health will wither, we will become wasters and gamblers not to speak of searching for the wrong kind of jobs. We need to be together to live in peace and harmony. Has any impact study ever mentioned this? Will a bit of money be able to buy us all that living in the community brings ?

Yes, please answer all these questions and we will reconsider our vow to struggle till KKNPP is closed. We suggest that all the  decision makers and technical support personnel connected to KKNPP stay with us in the village for a few days and explain and answer all our questions. Only then can our vow be broken…

[From conversations with Leema Navaras, Chellamma, Fransisca, Mary, Sundari, Annammal, Chinna Thankam, Tamilarasu, Ponnasakkiammal, Paramasithi, Melrit and Xavieramma and the innumerable women gathered in the Samara pandal at Idintakarai village. 
11.08.2012, 15-16.08.2012, 22.08.2012, 31st Aug 2012.]

Anitha.S ( anithasharma2007@gmailcom).

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