From V.I. Teacher to Judge
NST Online -- Focus
In Passing: Husband, father, friend and judge
An expert in industrial law, he only represented trade unions and the employees, eschewing the more lucrative briefs of employers and employer associations in all his years in practice.
The judiciary is the third and perhaps most important arm of government.
Judges are responsible for upholding the constitution and the laws of the nation and mediating between the rights of citizens and the interests of the state.
These are challenging times and we need judges who are courageous as well as fair-minded and humane.
Justice Datuk K.P. Gengadharan Nair, who died last Saturday, was one such person.
Genga, as he was known to all, was born on April 30, 1944 in Kuala Lumpur. He was one of three children born to C.R. Nair and Lakshmi Kutty Amma.
Older brother Dr K.K. Nair, who was a professor of history at University of Malaya, died at the young age of 46.
Younger sister Komalam lives in Kuala Lumpur with her husband and daughter.
Like many from his generation who became lawyers, Genga was first a school teacher, trained at Brinsford Lodge in Liverpool and, on his return, served in a number of schools, including the prestigious Victoria Institution in Kuala Lumpur.
He quickly became active in union activities.
In 1968, he quit teaching and left for London to read law at the Inner Temple. He was called to the Bar after securing a Second Class degree in his first attempt at the Bar examinations.
On his return to Malaysia in 1972, Genga did his pupilage at the law firm of Xavier and Vadiveloo, a firm specialising in industrial law.
With the late D.P. Xavier as his mentor, Genga established himself as an expert in industrial law. In all his years in practice, Genga only represented trade unions and the employees, eschewing the more lucrative briefs of employers and employer associations. He was committed to the advancement of labour rights.
As a member of the Malaysian Bar, he was for many years a member of the Industrial Court Rules & Practice Committee of the Bar Council and sat on the Bar Council’s Special Committee on Review of Chambering in 2002.
In 1976, he married Devagey Raru. A son, Sashikharan, was born in 1982. Despite a busy practice, Genga always made time for the family.
The rest of his time was balanced between a small but close circle of friends, many of whom he had known from childhood and while doing community service. For many years until his appointment as a judge, he was an active and respected member of the Rotary Club of Damansara.
Genga’s gift for friendship was built on understanding and giving quiet, well thought-out advice to the many people who approached him.
When Genga was appointed Judicial Commissioner in 2003, many, especially lawyers who had appeared before him, felt that the elevation should have been made much earlier.
He showed those who appeared before him that, when properly attended, litigation as developed in the common law courts was one of the finest arts for conflict resolution available to man.
Genga was efficient, principled and fair. He knew that just decisions depended on a fair hearing of both sides of the argument and he gave his time patiently and courteously to hear both sides.
In the High Court in Johor Baru, where he first heard his cases, he earned the respect of lawyers.
If he was kind, patient and courteous, he was also sound of law and swift in his decisions.
The Court of Appeal had no difficulties in affirming his decisions.
Judges often suffer in making their decisions because someone is always left dissatisfied. They carry a burden that cannot be shared. Remoteness and detachment from friends and society is the other price they have to pay for the position they hold.
In the four years that Genga was judge, he met the different demands made on him as husband, father, friend and judge in ways that fulfilled all obligations and without compromising any.
REMEMBERING DATUK K.P. GENGADHARAN NAIR
The Bar notes with sadness the passing of Datuk K.P. Gengadharan Nair on 21 April 2007.
Genga, as he was better known to his friends and family, was born on 30 April 1944. Genga was originally a teacher by profession, having completed his Diploma in Education at Brinsford Lodge, Wolverhampton, United Kingdom. During those early years, he was actively involved in the activities of the National Union of Teachers and took up the cause for better working and living conditions for teachers. Because of his active involvement in these activities, he was transferred from his position in Victoria Institution by the Headmaster to a lower secondary school.
He quit teaching in 1970 and proceeded to the United Kingdom to read law. He was a member of the Honourable Society of Inner Temple. He excelled in his studies and obtained a 2nd Class Degree within a relatively short period. Upon his return in 1972, he read in the chambers of the late D.P. Xavier, a senior practitioner who specialised in the area of industrial/employment law.
Upon being called to the Malaysian Bar in June 1973, Datuk Genga became an active industrial/employment practitioner. He chose to represent the unions and employees as it was his deep concern and passion to protect the rights of employees and workers. The next 30 years saw Datuk Genga develop into one of the leading lawyers in this area of law. He was a brilliant lawyer who practiced without fear or favour and maintained high ethical standards at the Bar. He was deeply admired and respected not only by trade unionists and fellow lawyers but also by the Chairmen of the Industrial Court and the Judges of the superior courts. His in-depth knowledge of the law and his persuasive arguments are reflected in many cases reported in the law journals.
Datuk Genga was also an active member of the Damansara Rotary Club, demonstrating again his deep concern for the poor and unfortunate. He devoted much of his time to helping them.
In recognition of his vast experience and abilities, Datuk Genga was appointed a Judicial Commissioner in May 2003. His first posting was to the High Court in Johor Bahru. He was later elevated as a High Court Judge in December 2004 and was subsequently transferred to Kuala Lumpur in January 2007. His short time as a Judge will be remembered fondly by the Bar.
Datuk Genga’s qualities as a kind, gentle and polite man shone through during his time on the Bench. His temperament was brilliant and eminently befitting that of a High Court Judge.
Datuk Genga was an extraordinary man of exceptional qualities. He was always kind, courteous and polite to members of the Bar, however junior they were. Lawyers benefited from his wisdom. At home, he loved gardening and spent much of his time on his plants and colourful fish that he raised.
It is often said that the greatness of a man is measured in what he exudes during his lifetime. Datuk Genga gave his best at all times. His memory will always remain indelible in all of us.
Datuk Genga leaves behind his beloved wife, Datin Devagey Raru, and son, Sashikharan Nair. They will remember him forever as a most loving and devoted husband and father.
Dato’ Roy Rajasingham
A Memorial was held at the Royal Lake Club on 15 June 2007. It was organised by close friends of the late Judge. It was attended by close to 250 people. Speeches in tribute of the late Judge were delivered by Justice Dato’ Gopal Sri Ram, Mother Mangalam, Dato’ Roy Rajasingham, Mr Unni Kumaran Menon, Mr John R. Gurusamy and many others. In their speeches, the speakers covered all the various facets of Dato’ Genga’s life. It was a good, fitting tribute to the late Judge. A condolence book signed by members of the KL Bar was presented by the Chairman of the KL Bar Committee, Mr Ravindra Kumar, to Datuk Genga’s wife, Datin Devagey. At the end of the function, Datuk Genga’s son, Sashikharan Nair thanked the organisers of the Memorial for taking the initiative to honour his late father. He also thanked everyone present for their attendance.
From the V.I. Archives:
Gengadharan (centre) in V.I. Staff Room - 1966
Gengadharan (back row, centre) in V.I. staff photo - 1967