New Delhi: When the Supreme Court wrapped up hearings in the Ram Janmabhoomi case Wednesday, it was a dream come true for senior advocate K. Parasaran, who represented Ram Lalla Virajman, or the infant deity, in the title suit.
Parasaran, referred to in legal circles as the ‘pitamah (patriarch)’ of the Indian bar, is 92 years old.
When the Supreme Court decided in August to hold daily hearings in the case, Rajeev Dhavan, the counsel for the Sunni Waqf Board, said it might be tiresome for Parasaran. However, Parasaran said his only wish “before I die” was to finish arguing this case.
On 8 August, when he began arguing the case, the five-judge Constitution bench asked Parasaran if he would like to do so seated. He politely declined.
A long, celebrated career
Parasaran, born on 9 October 1927, is a former Rajya Sabha member and served as attorney general of India between 1983 and 1989.
He is the son of a lawyer, Kesava Iyengar, and the father of two, Mohan Parasaran and Satish Parasaran, as well.
Between 1976 and 1977, he served as the solicitor general of Tamil Nadu. He then served the same role under the Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi administrations as well.
Despite his long association with Congress governments, his appeal transcended party lines.
When former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee appointed a drafting and editorial committee to review the working of the Constitution, Parasaran was on it.
He has been recognised with the Padma Bhushan as well as the Padma Vibhushan.
Parasaran has, in fact, been celebrated since his days as a student. He was awarded the Shri Justice C.V. Kumaraswami Sastri Sanskrit Medal while pursuing his BA and Justice Shri V. Bhashyam Iyengar Gold Medal in Hindu Law in BL (now BA.LLB)
He also received the Justice Shri K.S. Krishnaswamy Iyengar Medal in his Bar Council examination.
Deep knowledge of faith
A doyen of constitutional law, Parasaran also boasts of deep knowledge of Hinduism
When he started his arguments in the Supreme Court, he described the significance of Ram Janmabhoomi for Hindus thus: “Janani Janma-bhoomi-scha swargadapi gariyasi (mother and motherland are greater than the heavens above).”
Parasaran has been a sought-after lawyer, especially in cases where questions of faith are involved.
Before Ram Janmabhoomi, the lawyer represented Lord Ayyappa in the high-stakes Sabarimala case on whether women in the menstruation age group should be allowed into the sanctum sanctorum of the Kerala temple.
Arguing that it was important for the deity to maintain distance from women, the senior lawyer sought to dodge allegations of gender bias by pointing out that Hindu rituals prohibited widowers from performing religious rites as well.
The lawyer had then questioned whether the ban was gender bias or gender sensitive.
The Constitution bench had subsequently allowed the entry of women inside the temple.
‘I have committed bigamy’
Parasaran, who enrolled in the bar in the 1950s, has been known to work close to 18 hours a day on several cases, even joking that law was his second wife.
“I admitted in an open meeting that I have committed the offence of bigamy. In 1949, having married my first wife Saroja, when I enrolled myself as a lawyer, a year later, I married my second wife by name ‘law’,” Parasaran was quoted as saying in an interview. “Law is always a jealous mistress. One has more affection towards the second wife. So, I spent more time with law than my own first wife.”
In 1996, he faced off against his son when he led former Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa’s case against then governor Chenna Reddy’s decision to sanction her prosecution for alleged corruption.
Parasaran and his long tenure as a lawyer has been of great interest among students. In fact, three university students also authored a book on him, titled, Law and Dharma: A tribute to the Pitamaha of the Indian Bar, in 2016.
At the book release, Supreme Court judge Sanjay Kishan Kaul also referred to Parasaran as the “pitamah” of the Indian bar.
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