Professor Gupteswar, known as Torteswar

Gupteswar strongly advocated for eminent teachers of the law to be elevated as judges of Constitutional courts. In one of his essays titled "Law Teachers for the Bench", Prof Gupteswar pointed out that initially Art 217 (3) v(c) of the constitution provided for eminent Jurists to be appointed as judges of the SupremeCourt.

By M Sridhar Acharyulu  Published on  15 April 2022 5:30 AM GMT
Professor Gupteswar, known as Torteswar

A teacher, who advocated for teachers to occupy the bench of Supreme and High Courts, considered teachers public personalities and not ordinary employees on the contractor, Professor Gupteswar Korimilli, 91, breathed last recently in the United States where he was living a retired life with his wife, son and two daughters. His son Rambabu told that he briefly suffered acute weakness caused by old age. Law teachers lost the Guru of several High Court Judges and Advocates.

Always a thinking mind. Sometimes over a ThumsUp, and a curry puff, we will have an hour of scholarly and leisurely discussion on a recent topic of legal development. This was a frequent scene of Professor Gupteswar Korimilli's post-retirement assignment at Pendekanti Law College (PLC), named after former Union Minister and Governor Pendekanti Venkata Subbaiah. As the founder Principal Prof Gupteswar used to engage in such legal thoughts with faculty members, especially with me. Prof. Gupteswar, who holds a Post Graduate degree from StanfordUniversity had a long career as Professor at Andhra University Law College, Visakhapatnam.

Rajiv's Defamation Bill

After I shifted from journalism to law teaching, I appeared for an interview seeking employment as an Assistant Professor at PLC, a center of standard legal education. It was a duly constituted selection committee in December 1993 headed by Prof Gupteswar. The questions were pouring on my Ph.D. thesis topic around freedom of speech and the law of defamation. In 1988 Rajiv Gandhi's Government brought a new law on Defamation creating new offences, which I strongly felt and wrote, to curb press freedom. Prof Gupteswar was critical of my contention and reasoned his support for it on the ground of irresponsible media reporting. After the interview was over, my friends were doubtful of my selection because I was seriously differing from Professor Gupteswar, who will generally choose his faculty and I was contradicting him. But I have received an appointment letter. That is Prof Gupteswar. His scholarly thinking puts him on a high pedestal, and he does not require any Ph.D. to testify it.

Ex CJI RanganathMisra in PLC

Without much ado, Prof Gupteswar made PLC a center for various activities involving several legal luminaries. It was a privilege for teachers and students of PLC to interact with these experts. Once he introduced me to Former Chief Justice Ranganath Mishra and asked me to interview him. Discussing various issues including prison reforms, Justice Mishra suggested I visit Pune's Yerwada Jail to understand the effectiveness of reforms. Whether officials allow me? I expressed my doubt. Immediately Mishra took my writing pad and wrote a letter addressing the Superintendent of Yerwada Jail to allow me inside. A few months later, without any prior appointment, I went to Pune and visited Jail. I was still doubting my entry. The officers honored the letter and allowed not only me but my wife also. They spent the whole day explaining the reforms. My study was published as an article in Pioneer daily. Prof Gupteswar read and appreciated it.

Granville Austin interacts with PLC teachers

It was unbelievable that an internationally famous author of the Indian Constitution, Corner Stone of a Nation, Granville Austin, addressed a seminar at Pendekanti college. By that time his second book 'Working a democratic Constitution- Indian Experience" was not completed. Austin sat through the seminar for a whole day and interviewed me (Note: it is not me interviewing him) asking several questions about working on the Constitution. It was a thrilling experience.

Justice Krishna Iyer

He brought the legendary judge, Justice V R Krishna Iyer to PLC to function as chief guest in one of the vibrant seminars. It was another great experience that can inspire me for a lifetime.

Besides, M Jagannadha Rao former Judge of Supreme Court, GVG Krishna Murthy, former Chief Election Commissioner, Professor R Venkat Rao, Prof Pola Koteswar Rao, Eminent Advocate, formerly Mayor, BCI President and Cricket Board chairman, D Subbaraoshared their valuable experiences with PLC. They all had great respect for the academic excellence of the Gupteswar. He used to give enough freedom to me (Vice Principal) to organize the events like south-India moot court competitions and workshops.

Torteswar

With his in-depth understanding of the law of torts, Prof Gupteswar gained a reputation as Torteswar. As a teacher of the law of torts, I used to discuss nuances of Torts with him.

He was a tough person and also fearless. There was a difficult time when I, as invigilator of law examination, along with the flying squad, found and caught a former IAS officer copying in the law examination. But Principal Gupteswar stood by me with all strength.

A section of ABVP wanted me to be removed as Vice-Principle. They threatened me to resign. I refused. I told them 'How can I do that, it's my livelihood". Then they approached Principal Gupteswar strongly demanding my removal. ABVP could not advance any reason. It was just a demand. He did not respond. Despite mounting pressure and threats, I have not resigned. The Principal and management of PLC refused to remove me. I continued as Vice Principal with Prof Gupteswar till I joined NALSAR University.

Such an elderly scholar used to be very simple, Gupteswar used to be a pillion rider on my chetak scooter or Honda bike, to go around the city for meetings and restaurants. He used to enjoy delicious idly or crisp dosa in Gayatri Hotel, Himayatnagar (now not there), and he never allowed me to pay.

His demand for perfection was always unsatiated. Rarely does he appreciates any because of glaring deficiencies. But, he spoke in great appreciation about my book – DharmasanaChaitanyam(=Judicial activism) and KarmikaChattalu (Labour Acts) which were released by Justice P A Chowdary in 1998. That was the beginning of my career as an author and columnist on Legal matters in Telugu.

Gupteswar strongly advocated for eminent teachers of the law to be elevated as judges of Constitutional courts. In one of his essays titled "Law Teachers for the Bench", Prof Gupteswar pointed out that initially Art 217 (3) v(c) of the constitution provided for eminent Jurists to be appointed as judges of the Supreme Court. No professor was appointed. During emergency times Clause (c) was introduced in Art 217(2) enabling eminent Jurists to be appointed to the High Courts too by an amendment in 1976. It was a good amendment among other controversial changes brought by Indira Gandhi Government. Unfortunately, this latter amendment was deleted by another Amendment in 1979, by Morarji Desai Government. This deprived the services of eminent jurists (academicians) as judges. Prof. Gupteswar wrote that though there was scope for the elevation of eminent Jurists to the high Courts during a short period from 3rd Jan 1977 to 20th June 1979 no eminent jurist was appointed to High Courts. Article 217(3)(v)(c) remained a dead letter, as none bothered to implement it. The vacancies on the bench were filled only by district judges and practicing advocates. Chances of the third stream to judicial appointments were denied. Prof Gupteswar quoted eminent SC Justice- O. Chinnappa Reddy, who favored the appointment of eminent jurists to the High Courts.

Prof Gupteswar made a representation to the then Union Law Minister, reminding him that an eminent Professor Frankfurter was elevated to the American Supreme Court and penned some of the most brilliant judgments.

Former Judge of Supreme Court Justice Jagannadha Rao recalled that he and other senior judges of AP High Court who attended a seminar at Andhra University felt that it would do a lot of good for the AP High Court if professors like him could be elevated to the High Court.

It's my fortune that Prof Gupteswar strongly wished and blessed me that I become Judge of the Supreme Court from the academicians' stream. Besides Gupteswar, a reputed senior Journalist PotturiVenkateswar Rao also wished me to be on the Supreme Court Bench from the stream of academics. Their blessings were so powerful, that I got a divine opportunity to become Central Information Commissioner, which was technically equal to SC Judge until its status was drastically reduced by an amendment in 2019. Prof Gupteswar gifted me a table and chair which were once used by Sarvepalli Radhakrishna at Andhra University. I still possess it as a priceless gift.

Essays of Gupteswar

Professor R Venkat Rao, former Vice-Chancellor of National Law School of India University (for a decade) edited a book with the articles of Prof Gupteswar recently, titled "Legal Essays of Prof K Gupteswar". This book contains just 8 out of his 60 essays spanning three decades. Justice M Jagannadha Rao in his detailed foreword recorded his appreciation of K Gupteswar: "I found that Prof.Gupteswar's intellectual caliber is of a very high order, his capacity to articulate and explain fundamental principles in any branch of law is unsurpassable, and his knowledge extends to all most all branches, Civil, Criminal, Labour, Contracts, Torts, Intellectual Property, and others and finally to Constitutional law and International Law".

Gupteswarwrote about the early years of Gandhiji, his stay in South Africa where he laid the foundations for a new right of "peaceful resistance" against bad laws, how, on his return to India, Gandhi opposed the Rowlatt Act saying that "people can commit civil breaches to prevent criminal breaches" by the State.

In an essay on Legal Education, Gupteswar wrote: "The problems of law are as wide as the horizon and as profoundly deep as the ocean".He was highly critical of plagiarism in LLM and Ph.D. Another significant thought of Prof Gupteswar was that the teachers have statutory status as "engaged in public employment" even if they are under a contract. He wrote: 'Once the statutory-contractual dilemma is got over, there is little scope to doubt the right of the teacher to reinstatement rather than merely a right to damages'.

The law teaching community lost scholarly professor Gupteswar, on March 27. His funeral service was conducted on March 30 at Grissom's Chapel and Mortuary in San Lorenzo CA United States. On the occasion of his 92nd birthday on 11th April, they are organizing a zoom meeting with his disciples spread all over the world on Sri Rama Navami.

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