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Mariadas Ruthnaswamy CIE, KCSG (1885–1977) was a leading educationalist, statesman and a writer in Madras (now Chennai, Tamil Nadu), India.
He was educated in Secunderabad, Hyderabad and in Cuddalore in the then Madras Presidency he went on to study in Oxford and Cambridge, ultimately qualifying as a barrister at Gray’s Inn, London. In his political career Ruthnaswamy was a Councillor for the Corporation of Madras, then a member of the Madras Legislative Council, being appointed President of the Council in September 1925 after the death of L. D. Swamikannu Pillai. He held office until the following election, in November 1926. He later served on the Madras Service Commission,as Member and later chairman, was nominated as a member of the Central Legislative Assembly, and after independence nominated as a member of the Rajya Sabha(1968–74).
He was initially associated with the Justice Party, and after it was dissolved remained independent until he joined the newly formed Swatantra Party.
From 1942 to 1948 he was the Vice-Chancellor of Annamalai University.
The son of Rai Bahadur M.I.Ruthnaswamy, Ruthnaswamy was educated at St.Anne’s School, Secunderabad; he later went on to matriculate at St. Joseph’s College, Cuddalore in 1903, completing his graduation from Nizam’s College, Hyderabad in 1907. While at school and college, he was declared on several occasions as the best orator, and was also prominent in cultural activities. In 1907, he secured admission in Jesus College, Oxford, and left for England, later shifting to the University of Cambridge to complete his History Tripos in 1910. At the same time he enrolled himself in Gray’s Inn (1907–1910) and returned to India as a barrister (Bar at Law) in 1911.He was determined not to practice Law in spite of compulsion from his father.
Ruthnaswamy became a Councillor, Corporation of Madras in 1921 a position he held till 1923. It was also in 1921 that the post of Principal, Pachiappa’s College was offered, he was to become the first Indian Principal of that institution, the position that he successfully held till 1927. During his period in the Madras Legislative Assembly, he was known for his wit and quick repartee, when Sir K Venkatareddi Nayadu made a remark that he had delivered 200 lectures, Ruthnaswamy was quick to reply “Is any Minister justified in inflicting lectures upon the electorate?” In the previous year Mr S Satyamurthy declared “We fought as Swarajists….” Then Mr Abbas Ali said ‘We fought as Muhammedans” Ruthnaswamy enquired ‘Whether the Muhammedans could have fought the elections as any other than Muhammadans ”
In 1925, Ruthnaswamy was elected President, Madras Legislative Council at a young age of 40, which he was to hold with distinction for a year. The Madras Legislative Council with 132 members had luminaries like S.Satyamurthi, Raja of Panagal, PT Rajan, S.Srinivasa Ayyangar, Arcot Ramaswami Mudaliar and Dr P Subbarayan among others. The Governor had a 4 Member Executive Council -N E Majoribanks (Revenue), Khan Bahadur Mohammad Usman of Madras (Home), T E Moir (Finance)and A.Y.G. Campbell (Law). Chief Minister was Raja of Panagal two other Ministers being A.P Patro and T N Sivagnanam Pillai. Recognising his manifold talents in Constitutional Law, he was nominated as Member, Central Legislative Assembly in 1927. In 1928 he became the first Indian Principal, Madras Law College, Madras, a position that was held by Ruthnaswamy till 1930. In 1930 Ruthnaswamy became Member, Madras Service Commission, a post he held with distinction for 12 years (till 1942). The Madras Service Commission was the forerunner on the present day Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission. Madras Service Commission came into being through an Act in 1929, the Madras Presidency had the unique honour of being the first among all the Presidencies to establish a Service Commission. It had 3 Members. Soon after leaving the Madras Service Commission, he became Vice-Chancellor, Annamalai University, which he held for 2 terms – 1942–1948
Ruthnaswamy was decorated as a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) in 1930. In 1937, Pope Pius XI conferred the Knight Commander’s Cross of the Order of St. Gregory the Great (KCSG) on him. This honour is conferred on Catholics and non-Catholics alike. In 1968, the Government of India conferred Ruthnaswamy with the Padma Bhushan for Literature and Education One of the rare occasions when the Leader of the Opposition (Rajya Sabha) was conferred such an award.