M Patanjali Sastri, the first member of the Madras Bar who became the Chief Justice of India in 1952, was indeed a Tamilian and hence holds the distinction of being the first CJI from Tamil Nadu, it now emerges.
Since the popular perception among members of the Chennai judiciary is that Sastri hailed from Nellore in Andhra Pradesh, which was mentioned in Express on June 30 in the report on the elevation of Justice P Sathasivam as the next CJI, Saran Patanjali, the grandson of Sastri, has sought to set the record straight. He clarified that his grandfather was born in Mandakolathur (see passport copy on top right), which is in present day Tiruvannamalai district. The old passport of Sastri, preserved by the grandson along with black and white historic photographs, proves that his place of birth was indeed Mandakolathur.
Saran Patanjali said the ‘error/anomaly pertaining to the nativity’ had hurt the family members, and added: “Sri M Patanjali Sastri was the son of Sri Krishna Sastri, a Tamilian who was a Sanskrit scholar and Headmaster of Muthialpet School in Chennai.” Since Sastri is a Tamilian, he was the first CJI from Tamil Nadu, said Patanjali, who is the son of P Nagarajan, the eldest of Sastri’s sons.
Of Sastri’s eight children — three sons, five daughters — a daughter, Tirupurasundari, resides in Bengaluru and even she was upset over the report mentioning her father as a ‘Telugu’, said Patanjali, who studied law but pursued a career in management and is now Vice president of El Forge Ltd in Chennai.
Among Sastri’s descendents, only one grandson, V Balachandran, had had a career in law. He had practised at the Madras High Court till his death about three years ago.