Our honour

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K Chandru

Sasikala, a student from a remote village, struggled to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor in Chennai until K. Chandru, a lawyer, came to her aid. Not only did he fight her case in court, but he also mentored and supported her journey, becoming a father figure to her. When she saw ‘Jai Bhim’, a film about Chandru's life, it brought back warm memories and she sent him a poignant message, "This is you and me in the picture, Sir,"

The landmark judgments of Justice Chandru, a former judge of the High Court, include allowing women to be priests in temples, removing caste considerations from burial grounds and protecting government employees with mental health illnesses from being dismissed. He had a rigorous schedule and heard at least 75 cases a day, and cleared 96,000 cases in six and a half years.

Chandru had always been humble and unassuming. On his retirement day from the Madras High Court, he submitted his final declaration of assets to the then Acting Chief Justice R. K. Agrawal. He returned the key of his official car, walked across the road to his old office and headed to the railway station, buying a season ticket to take a local train home. He politely refused a formal farewell ceremony.
He also vowed that he would not practice in Supreme Court or head tribunals. Immediately upon retirement, he vacated his official residence and moved into a two- bedroom apartment in the nearby area of Mylapore and took up teaching.

When the Tamil Nadu government demolished the Uthapuram wall in Madurai in 2008—a wall created to separate the living areas of caste Hindus and Dalits—Chandru made the observation in a judgment that, "Uthapuram wall is no Berlin Wall. When the Berlin Wall crumbled, no one wept for the fall of the wall," referring to the resentment among caste Hindus. He has been involved in several cases for women, including the Parvathi case featured in the film, ‘Jai Bhim’. His book, ‘Listen to My Case! When Women Approach the Courts of Tamil Nadu’, outlines the stories of 20 women from marginalized communities and their fight for justice.

Growing up, Chandru was inspired by the speeches of Dravidian leaders. Later, he joined the Communist Party of India (Marxist). His activism got him expelled from Loyola College in his second year for organising student agitations. Advocate K. K. Venugopal then convinced Chandru to pursue law. He helped him join the Government Law College in Chennai. Chandru's time with the CPI(M) eventually ended. When the Indian Peacekeeping Force was deployed in Sri Lanka, he criticized the CPI(M)'s support for it. In 1988, the CPI(M) expelled him for his opposition to the Indo-Sri Lanka accord.

Chandru's small office in Alwarpet, Chennai, greets visitors with an inviting sign: "Don't remove your footwear". Next to it stands a stone Buddha with two yellow flowers on its shoulders. The walls within are decorated with books and mementos, including a dried peepalleaf and a brick wrapped in polythene—the Uthapuram brick and the leaf from Jallianwala Bagh, respectively.

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