P.V. Sivaswami Iyer (1864-1946)

Lawyer, administrator and statesman, Sir Pazhamarneri Sundaram Sivaswami Iyer was born on 7 February 1864 in a village near Tanjore. Sivaswami Iyer graduated from the Presidency College, Madras, with a First Class in Sanskrit and History.

On passing the B.L. examination, he set up practice in Madras as a lawyer in 1885, and rose steadily to the top rank in the face of formidable competition, winning a name for himself. He was appointed Advocate-General in 1907, being the first Indian to occupy that prestigious post in a permanent capacity. He was appointed in 1912 as Member of the Governor’s Executive Council under the Minto-Morley scheme.

He was elected to the senate of the Madras University in 1898 and as its representative in the Madras Legislative Council in 1904. He served as Vice-Chancellor of the Madras and Benares Hindu Universities for short terms. While he was all for the cultivation of the scientific spirit, he was a firm believer in liberal education as the proper function of the universities.

He condemned the Hunter Commission Report for playing down the Punjab atrocities. As India’s delegate he attacked General Smuts’ Mandates policy at the Third Session of the League of Nations in 1922. He advocated the boycott of the Simon Commission. He opposed Pakistan, and he wanted a strong Centre as well as the parliamentary system of democracy. He regarded the right to property as fundamental to the institution of the family and preservation of values.

Sivaswami Iyer was a man of dignified presence. Among the fine arts he was particularly drawn to painting, and was a collector in a modest way. He welcomed western culture, but was depressed at the prospect of the decay of our old-world virtues under its impact. He was all for women’s emancipation. A man of rare probity of mind, he died in 1946.