Semita murder case

I used to shuttle between Bantwal, Belthangady, Mangaluru and Karkala to attend court cases. I used to meet Veerappa Moily in Karkala who was practising as Junior with Ellyanna Poojary. I was busy and I also used to give some of my cases to Moily. I had become very popular within a short span of time.

An incident occurred which caught the attention of the entire state. A landlord by the name Bhaskar Semita was murdered. Raghav Poojary, who used to work at Semita's farm house was charged with murder. I took the case of Raghav. Yusuf Hyder and N N Suvarna who were famous criminal lawyers took Semita's wife's case. Semita's wife was a prime witness. Mr Kulkarni was the judge. I could sense that he was in favour of landlords going by his line of questioning. The judge had even received an anonymous letter which accused him of being favourable to landlords. I did not know about it then. The proceedings in the case were being reported by newspapers and people were eagerly tracking this case.

I carefully studied all the case papers presented by the prosecution. Semita's lawyer had argued that his client was murdered using a knife. Public prosecutor had also argued on the same lines. When my turn came to cross-examine, I asked about the whereabouts of the knife that was used by the accused. Police then submitted a knife to the court. But this was not recorded in the FIR. I weaved my arguments around this and made a very strong pitch for my client. "Where is the knife?" was the heading carried by leading newspapers the next day. My client was discharged of all charges due to lack of evidence. I shot to fame after this case as I had won against well known Advocates.

I used to get cases related to tillers when I was practising law. In 1972, the then Chief Minister Devaraj Urs wanted to bring an amendment to the Land Reforms Act to give security to those tilling land for years. The Bill, prepared by B D Jatti Committee, was passed in Mysuru Assembly in 1961. However, it came into force only in 1965. The main purpose of the Act was to improve agriculture and had nothing to offer to the tiller. Devaraj Urs wanted to give the ownership to farmers who ploughed the land. A Joint Select Committee was formed to study the Bill after Revenue Minister Huchhamasti Gowda tabled the draft Bill in both the Houses of the Legislature. Both the houses accepted the report of the Committee. The Bill became Act after it got the assent of the President in 1974. It was a revolutionary act that proposed to make the landeless farmers who ploughed the land for years the owner of the land. Lakhs of tillers become owners overnight. This led to disputes and fights between the landlords and the tillers. Many disputes reached courts. I always used to take cases of tillers.

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