The Chalai Riot - A Reflection

  • Published on April 06, 1910
  • By Staff Reporter
This article / write-up appeared in Svadesabhimani. has not made any changes.

Now that the last chapter in the unfortunate Chalai Riot  has been closed , we may cast our eyes back and reflect for a moment over some of the incidents. As every one of our readers is well aware, it was not so much as the riot itself that arrested public attention in South India as the sensational developments that followed that much -magnified disturbance. The concluding scene related to the discharge of Mr. C.S. Swaminatha Sastry B.A., B.L., Assistant Superintendent of Police. In disposing of the Chalai Riot appeals , the High Court consisting of their Honours F.J.R.V Hunt and K.P. Sankara Menon, ordered the prosecution of Mr. Sastri for alleged offences of subornation of evidence and using false evidence. In obedience to the High Court order judicial proceedings were taken against Mr. Swaminatha Sastri and Mr. C. Raghavachari B.A, the local First Class Magistrate, was engaged inquiring into the case. Mr. E.Rama Iyer , Vakil for Mr. Sastri , raised a lot of preliminary objections in law and contended that the order of the High Court to prosecute Mr.Sastri was illegal. The legal objections were overruled and the Magistrate committed the accused to take his trial before the sessions. In commencing the proceedings the Sessions court, Mr. Rama Iyer raised the preliminary objection and argued that the order of the High Court was ultra vires as the sanction of Government was not obtained before the High Court passed orders to prosecute Mr.Sastri. Mr. Viraraghava Iyengar , the Sessions Judge, was of opinion that the Magistrate's order of commitment should be squashed and recommended to the High Court to have the order quashed. The High Court consisting of Their Honours T.Sadasivan Iyer M.L, Chief Justice and M.K.Ramachandra Rao B.A,B.L, agreed with the Sessions Judge and ordered the discharge of the accused on the ground that the order for prosecution should have been given after the sanction of Government had been obtained. One Division Bench of the High Court orders a prosecution and the sufferer, a high-placed  official who was suspended, is allowed ten months to ruminate over his fate. After the expiry of this long period, he is discharged on a technical ground by another Division Bench of the same court. If the judicial orders of the High Court -the highest court in the land -are to be made and unmade in this haphazard fashion how are the public to place their implicit reliance on the soundness of their judicial pronouncements? A High Court giving such contradictory decisions will not be considered a proud possession in the administration of a Native State. We further understand that the High Court Order of discharge is a curiously -worded and strangely argued one. But of that later on.

So far as the conduct of the Executive in the riot affairs is concerned, it has been equally hasty and autocratic. We have had our say about the promotion given to Mr. Narayana Menon. We also remarked that the manner, in which Mr. R.Renganatha Iyer was treated, was high-handed. An officer when he is asked to quit the service with which he has been connected for about 30years - all an unblemished record - must be told for what particular reason or offence he must sever his connection. He is told in a sentence that he is removed from service, while the Government Gazette says that he has been retired. If he has been retired, why should the allowance given him to be called a compassionate allowance? It should be a pension due under the C.S.R for the length of good service he has put in. if he has been removed from service, for what offence was it done?  It should have been specially stated in the order communicated to him. A Government ought to be fair, impartial and just. He must be informed what he was guilty of to deserve such a humiliating treatment at the hands of the Government. The Government have been parading the fact that he was  the superior Magistrate at the time of the riot . But was he informed of the state of affairs before or during the riot? It is in evidence that not one Policeman kept this " superior"  Magistrate informed of what was going on.  The first message he received was from H.H The Maha Rajah. Was anything done to prevent such  culpable negligence on the part of the Police? Absolutely nothing has been done and the Police have all along been passing for sages. The very first report to the Dewan was the one sent by Mr. Renganatha Iyer who said that the riot was due to Police grievance . The same conclusion was arrived at by the High Court after a lengthened and laborious examination of the evidence tendered in the course of the trial. Under these circumstances, we hold that Mr. Renganatha Iyer has been most vindictively treated and made a scapegoat, while the Police are, in the opinion of our paternal Government, all composed of saints who are the very incarnation of truth and justice. We are pained to reflect that both the judiciary and executive should have come to such a predicament and we will only wish for a better condition of affairs.


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