Cunden Menon [ Itterarichen Cundappen]

Three years after the Swathi Thirunal's accession to the musnud, Munsiff’s courts were established for the first time in every district throughout Travancore, for the disposal of petty civil cases, and in the next year, the Huzzoor court was abolished, and a Zillah court established at Trivandrum in lieu of it. Appreciative of ability and talent, and desirous of improving the administration, the Maha Rajah conceived the idea of inviting persons of acknowledged qualifications and probity from the British territories and even in the British Government’s service, in order to assist Dewan Suba Row in his exertions to introduce reforms.The then Resident Mr. Casamajor, brought to His Highness’ notice the ability and intelligence of a Tahsildar personally known to himself in one of the taluks under the Malabar collectorate, who accompanied the Commissariat during the Coorg campaign in the year 1834. The Maha Rajah, authorized the Resident to invite that officer to enter the service of the Travancore Government. This Tahsildar’s name was Itterarichen Cundappen, generally known as Cunden Menon. This person accepted the offer of a Dewan Peishcar’s post in the Huzzoor cutcherry, and was accordingly appointed in 1835 A.D. Dewan Peishcar Cunden Menon proved to be an excellent acquisition to the Travancore Service, and he afforded such great satisfaction to Swathi Thirunal that the Maha Rajah placed the details of the administration in the Peishcar’s hands, and directed Dewan Suba Row to place similar trust in the Peischcar, ordering further that if the Dewan should entertain doubts on any points of importance, he should report the same personally to His Highness. Cunden Menon Peishcar managed business to general satisfaction. In a short time, he merited the applause of the people who began to talk of him as second only to ex-Dewan Vencatta Row. The principal object of the Maha Rajah in inviting Cunden Menon, was to compile a code of laws for Travancore, founded upon the enactments then in force in the Honorable East India Company’s territories. Cunden Menon undertook this most important and onerous task, and having formed a committee of experienced officers in the Travancore service, he consulted with them and examined all the rules then in force in Travancore. They then commenced the drafting and arranging of the regulations, which they finished in the course of a few months. As the Peishcar had no knowledge of English, all his writings were translated by competent English scholars. The Maha Rajah and the Resident highly approved of the code, and it was printed at the Cottayam Mission Press (the Sircar having no press of their own at that time), and the new code was promulgated as the law of Travancore, and brought into force from the year 1836 A.D. This was the first code of regulations ever adopted and promulgated in Travancore. It consisted of eight chapters. The first five chapters, contain the civil code and procedure and the constitutions of Munsiffs, Zillah and appeal courts; the sixth regulation vests tahsildars with police authority, and Zillah courts with criminal powers; and the seventh and eighth authorise appeal court judges to perform the functions of session courts. To carry out the provision laid out by the new code, it was necessary to have a staff of competent agents, and to place a qualified person on the bench of the appeal court, Cunden Menon Peishcar recommenced His Highness to invite one of the Munsiffs in the Malabar Zillah. In accordance with this suggestion, the services of one Bagavuntha Row, a Munsiff, were availed of, he having been invited through the Resident. Bagavuntha Row was appointed first judge of the appeal court on his arrival in Trivandrum.
By Regulation VI, the power of supreme magistracy was vested in the Dewan, and by that measure Cunden Menon Peishcar became virtually the head magistrate, and he took in hand the organization of the police and magistracy, while Bagavuntha Row, judge, arranged every point connected with the civil and criminal departments. In the course of a few months, the powers of the judicial departments in Travancore were clearly established, and placed on a permanent footing, and the people became generally acquainted with the newly introduced system.A couple of years subsequent to Suba Row’s appointment as Dewan, he began to arrange for the conduct of a general garden survey, which was then over due in accordance with established rule, as no such survey had been held since the year 993 M.E., when one was commenced by the Dewan Daven Padmanabhen and concluded in 993, during the administration of Reddy Row. Dewan Peishcar Cunden Menon got the credit of carrying the measure into execution, during that officer’s time, and this survey was concluded in the year 1012 M.E. (1837 A.D.), subsequent to the said Peishcar’s death. Dewan Suba Row, whose powers had been virtually usurped by the intelligent and painstaking Dewan Peishcar, had nothing to do beyond affixing his signature to all communications prepared under the directions of Cunden Menon. The Dewan now grew jealous, and in consultation with his first assistant Dewan Peishcar Cochu Sankara Pillay, who was also highly envious of his junior colleagues’ success in office, began to thwart the Peishcar in many of his really praise worthy undertakings. But Suba Row’s ill-devised endeavours against Cunden Menon were not successful, as the peishcar had the firm support of the Maha Rajah and the Resident in all really important measures. But the successful career of Cunden Menon was arrested by his sudden and serious illness. After a distinguished service of two years, he died at Trivandrum. In him, Travancore lost a most able and promising officer, from who, the people expected still greater benefits if providence had spared him. The sudden death of Cunden Menon Peishcar was the subject of general remark. Though he died a natural death from a carbuncle on the back, and though he was attended by the place physician and the residency doctor, yet the popular voice had it that the Peishcar had fallen a victim to the arts of withcraft practised against him by some of the devilworshippers of the south, under the support and instigation of the Peishcar’s enemies.

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