Dewan Bahadur T. Ramachandra Rao Saheb
Among the luminaries in the legal world produced by our community the name of Dewan Bahadur C. Ramachandra Rao Saheb stands foremost. He was a person with high ideals and could easily have won fame as a politician. But he preferred to devote himself entirely to the subject of law and won for himself the distinction of a research-worker in that field.
Ramachandra Rao Saheb was born in 1845 in the family of the Arni Jaghirdars. His intuitive love of learning prompted him to leave the home of his parents and join the Free Church Mission School in Madras, of which Dr. William Miller was then Principal. In 1867 he passed the Matriculation examination with credit and began to study law. It was possible in those days to appear for the B.L. Degree examination without becoming a graduate. Ramachandra Rao Saheb was one of the first to avail himself of this facility and passed the examination in 1870, entirely through his personal efforts. For a time he was bound apprentice to Mr. Tirumalai Srinivasacharya, but as this gentleman died shortly after, he attached himself to Raja T. Rama Rao. In 1871 he enrolled himself as a Vakil of the High Court and served as a junior to Mr. T. Nagayya of Chittoor. When the latter became a Munsiff, Rao Saheb gained prominence in the profession. He was a contemporary of Sir V. Bashyam Iyengar and Dr. S. Subramania Iyer and maintained their friendship for life.
The year 1890 saw Ramachandra Rao Saheb as Junior Professor of Law in the Presidency College. When the Madras Law College was established (1892), he was made Chief Profession and continued in this capacity for a period of 10 years. He also had the honour of acting as Principal for a short time. He was looked upon as an authority in Roman Law and International Law, and had an acquaintance with certain obscure parts of these subjects, which was almost unique. He was an Examiner in Law for several years and also a member of the Madras University Senate for 17 years.
In the field of politics, his sympathies were with the Indian National Congress. He had been President of the Mahajana Sabha till his elevation to the Professorship of Law. He took part in the third Session of the Indian National Congress held at Madras in 1887. About this time the aims and ideals of the Congress were published in the form of a catechism in the “Hindu” of which Mr. M. Veeraraghavachariar was then Editor. This attracted the attention of the members of the Parliament and it was openly suggested that action should be taken against Mr. Veeraraghavachariar. Ramachandra Rao Saheb boldly came forward and confessed to Lord Connemara (the Governor) that he was the author of the catechism and that any contemplated steps should be taken against him and not against the editor of the “HINDU”. Of course he was told in reply that no such action was thought of. Ramachandra Rao Saheb also presided over a Conference held in Madras to condemn the action initiated by Sir Bamfeld Fuller of Bengal against Surendranath Bannerjee and other leaders in 1906.
Rao Saheb was honoured with the title of Dewan Bahadur in 1897. He was invited to Delhi in 1903 in connection with the Durbar which he attended.
Dewan Bahadur C. Ramachandra Rao Saheb had a great regard for Dr. Miller, whose pet student he was considered to be during his School days. In 1891, he organized the Old Boys Day in the Christian College along with other prominent “Old Boys”. In the beginning for 3 years, successively, he presided over these celebrations.
He had an attack of paralysis which brought about his end on the 6th October, 1909. On his death a reference was made in Court by Sir P.S. Sivaswami Iyer, then Advocate – General in very eulogistic terms.