Remembering Dr. Menon, a jurist par excellence

Dr N.R. Madhav Menon always felt that law was toothless if it was inaccessible to the common man.

Dr N.R. Madhav Menon, 86, who has passed away, was a jurist par excellence, a law teacher widely respected and recipient of several awards, including Padma Shri. Menon, who stood out from the rest, hailed from Thiruvananthapuram and was a member of the Trivandrum Bar Association before he migrated to Delhi. He secured post-graduation in political science with distinction and in law from the Aligarh Muslim University. He also became a UGC scholar and acquired doctorate in 'white-collar crimes.' Menon holds the first PhD in law from Aligarh Muslim University and taught law as professor there.

Later, he moved to Delhi University as reader, faculty of law.

Menon always felt that law was toothless if it was inaccessible to the common man. Legal aid was his area of pleasure and he presented a paper on legal aid at Berkeley, California. By 1970, he published his first work co-authored by Narasimham on law of government control over private enterprise. In it, he advocated more business freedom and called for measures to avoid stifling of private enterprises.

He was secretary-general of All-India Law Teachers Association in 1972, secretary to the Bar Council of India Trust and principal of the Pondicherry Law

College. Menon, who was invited by the bar council to set up its law school in Bangalore, fashioned it on the same lines as the Harvard Law School and the study method became the new mainstream of law education in India. He steered the National Law School for 12 years and when he demitted office as its director, it had attained the status of the most sought-after premier law school.

Perhaps the twist in the legal education in India owes its entire legacy to him and he will be remembered for bringing international standards in legal education.

His captaincy of the law school was widely acclaimed and the West Bengal government invited him to set up the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences on the lines of the Bangalore experience. He became the Vice-Chancellor and the curriculum was always set by him until 2003.

The apex court took note of the pioneering work of this legend and invited him to steer the National Judicial Academy into a training centre for judges. He did commendable job until his retirement in 2006.

Good soldiers never retire, they die out in work and this is true of Menon. After retirement, Menon readily accepted a post as member of the central-state relations committee.

The footwork he did during the doctoral days on the issues of federalism stood in good stead and he continued to serve it until 2010.

He extended his expertise as chairman of the Indian Statistical Institute and also to the Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram. He was concerned with the draft policy on criminal justice and also served as the member of the Law Commission.

The last phase of the life of this workhorse was devoted to the activities of empowering young lawyers with legal skills and he was closely associated with the M.K.Nambiar Academy of Legal Science as director. I had occasion to share work with him in a small way. Several advocates benefited from his work there.

To borrow the words of my friend, advocate Jasmine, former government pleader at the High court: "He was my guru, Bheeshmacharya, that passed away."

(Sasthamangalam S. Ajith Kumar is standing counsel, Central Bureau of Investigation, High Court of Kerala).

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