Lawyer fees - Part 1

Thippadoddi is a village on the north-eastern border of the Mysore Princely State. Punganoor is about eight to nine miles from Thippadoddi. There resided about twenty to twenty five families - one family of śānubhoga (Village Accountant), fifteen families of Reddy-Vokkaligas, five to six families of what is called the Harijan caste and the rest of other castes. The houses were all made of mud walls, some with mud roofs and rest with local tiles. No house had any plastered flooring. The village was surrounded by ‘nāgadāḻi[1]’ forest. The approach to the village and the common paths of the village had to be regularly reclaimed from nāgadāḻi’s jurisdiction.

The śānubhoga of this village was Sanjeevaiah (āravelu brāhmaṇa) and Sanjeevamma was his wife. Their descendants are still around.

The events that I am narrating transpired a century ago. I had heard it from my grandmother (mother’s mother). The British Company (‘Kumpani’) was ruling Mysore. It was about fifty years since Tipu’s rule. Britishers had started to implement their new system of administration. Agricultural lands were being brought under some sort of a system and tax and levies were fixed. A system of ryots (farmers) paying taxes and levies to the Government and obtaining receipts was being introduced. Gunjur Naranappa was the Shekdar of Byrakur Hobli, which included Thippadoddi. Naranappa was known to be very capable in performance of his duties and very strict with regard to matters relating to money.


This being so, a few persons, inimical to Thippadoddi’s śānubhoga Sanjeevaiah, gave a complaint to the Government alleging that out of the money collected from ryots, Sanjeevaiah would misappropriate a part and remit the remainder to the Government treasury.

Sanjeevaiah was very ostentatious and arrogant. His words were well respected in villages around. He didn’t hesitate in punishing mischief mongers. His words were quite harsh. People regarded him more as a village-headman, than as a village accountant. While exercising this authority it was inevitable that he had to chastise and punish a few. Two or three of these ganged up to write the complaint.

Due to someone’s handiwork in the Taluk office, attention of the Authorities was drawn to the complaint. Amaldar conducted an enquiry and held the allegations to be proved against Sanjeevaiah. This issue grew and came up before the Deputy Commissioner.

Shekdar Naranappa was aware of the background of this complaint. Sanjeevaiah had not committed any grave wrong which others hadn’t committed. Village accountants being arrogant and collecting small tokens / tips was not uncommon during those times. It was also not something unknown to higher officials in the Government. They used to ignore these common failings. Although it was an offence as per the law, due to such commonness it would generally go unnoticed. If Sanjeevaiah did what other 99 village accountants did, then why should Sanjeevaiah alone have to be singled out and punished?

Sanjeevaiah approached Shekdar Naranappa in distress. Naranappa took Sanjeevaiah along to  meet lawyer Seshagiriappa at Kolar. Seshagiriappa was a lawyer of considerable clout and repute. Naranappa and Seshagiriappa were both from the same community, with a chance of building a relationship.


An Inquiry started in the Deputy Commissioner’s office. Lawyer Seshagiriappa argued that śānubhoga Sanjeevaiah was not guilty of the alleged misconduct. The Taluk Amaldar had supplied to the inquiry the Patti (receipts) to substantiate the allegations.

Accordingly the Deputy Commissioner asked the Lawyer thus:
“What do you say about these receipt books? Your client has signed on these? Can he write such falsehoods?”

Lawyer: “There is nothing false in this. Sanjeevaiah accepts that he has written and issued the receipt books.”

D.C: “See this book. Is it a proper receipt? It doesn’t have any mention of money at all?”

Lawyer: “This receipt book pertains to Pashampalli Munireddy. Let him be enquired. He is before this Authority.”

D.C: “Call him”.

Pashampalli Munireddy came and stood before the D.C with folded hands. After instructing the clerk to note down his name and village, the D.C addressed Munireddy.

D.C: “Whose is this receipt book?”

Munierddy: “It belongs to me”.

D.C: “Did you pay the tax amount?”

Munireddy: “I did pay.”

D.C: “Has it been written in this?”

Munireddy: “He (Sanjeevaiah) said that he would note the payment in the receipt book. I told him ‘do I have to get it noted from you? Paper is very difficult to procure. So, please write some good verse for the children to read’. Hence he wrote a verse on the receipt book.”

Deputy Commissioner’s clerk had read the writing on the receipt book, which was:

“Where is the avanī male, Lavakumara, where is a mango orchard, where is the abode of Sita, where is the abode of that great Mother herself?”

Next Witness

After hearing this, the D.C smiled. Next was the receipt book of Berike Rangareddy. In his book it was written thus:

“yasya jñana-dayā-sindhor-agādhasyānaghā guṇāḥ”.

Rangareddy’s explanation was also similar to that of Munireddy.

Third book belonging to Channarame Gowda, was opened, which contained the following:

“Don’t pluck tender fruits. Don’t count the failings / misgivings of the near ones. Don’t flee from battle. Don’t transgress the advice of teachers.”

Even with regard to this writing, the explanation of the farmer was that it was written for the benefit of his children.

Same explanation given by farmers, concerning two more receipt books, which contained the verses from nītiśataka and amarakośa. None of the farmers said that śānubhoga refused to issue receipts for payment or cheated them. When persons who remitted tax did not complain and when no evidence of misconduct was forthcoming, the D.C could only acquit the accused. Thippagoddi’s Sanjeevaiah had to be declared as ‘not-guilty’.


For having been so pleased about the outcome, Naranappa and Sanjeevaiah offered garland, fruits, tāṃbūla[2] and one hundred rupees to Lawyer Seshagiriappa and pleaded: “We are poor. We are not in a position to fully clear this debt of gratitude. Kindly receive this small offering. We, with our family and children, shall always remember and cherish your name”. Thus they showered their gratitude.

Seshagiriappa received the garland, fruits and tāṃbūla, but returned the money and told Naranappa – “I will not take the money. You are our relative. You have said that he is poor. I have done my work for pleasure and not for money. Kindly take the money back.”

Naranappa and Sanjeevaiah tried to persuade the lawyer to accept the fee. Seshagiriappa was a sharp character. He spoke less. But once he had made up his mind, he would not let it be questioned. He curtly conveyed his decision and sent them back with their money.

To be continued...

This is the first part of the English translation of the third article of D V Gundappa’s Jnapakachitrashaale – Vol. 8 – Samkirna Smruti Samputa. Edited by Raghavendra G S.


[1]Nāgadāḻi or Narvisa plant: a medicinal plant with its botanical name – Ruta Graveolens. Traditionally used to treat fever, indigestion and headache. It is believed that houses with nāgadāḻi plants is not infested with snakes.

[2]Tāṃbūla: a traditional offering to a dignitary or a guest, containing betel leaves and betel nuts, with other mouth-freshening accompaniments.



Devanahalli Venkataramanayya Gundappa (1887-1975) was a great visionary and polymath. He was a journalist, poet, art connoisseur, philosopher, political analyst, institution builder, social commentator, social worker, and activist.



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