Ramasamy Chetty Kandasamy Shanmukham Chetty
Shanmukham Chetty in 1947
Minister of Finance
In office
15 August 1947 – 17 August 1948
Prime MinisterJawaharlal Nehru
Preceded byOffice Established
Succeeded byJohn Matthai
Diwan of Cochin kingdom
In office
MonarchRama Varma XVII
Preceded byC. G. Herbert
Succeeded byA. F. W. Dickinson
President of the Central Legislative Assembly
In office
September 1933 – 1935
Governor‑GeneralFreeman Freeman-Thomas, 1st Marquess of Willingdon
Preceded bySir Muhammad Yakub
Succeeded bySir Abdur Rahim
Member of the Imperial Legislative Council of India (Central Legislative Assembly)
In office
Governors‑GeneralRufus Isaacs, 1st Marquess of Reading,
E. F. L. Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax,
Freeman Freeman-Thomas, 1st Marquess of Willingdon
Personal details
Born(1892-10-17)17 October 1892
Coimbatore, Madras Presidency, British India
Died5 May 1953(1953-05-05) (aged 60)
Coimbatore, Madras State, India
Political partySwaraj Party,
Justice Party
Alma materMadras Christian College,
Madras Law College
ProfessionLawyer, politician

Sir Ramasamy Chetty Kandasamy Shanmukham Chetty KCIE (17 October 1892 – 5 May 1953) was an Indian lawyer, economist and politician who served as first Finance Minister of India from 1947 to 1948. He also served as President of India's Central Legislative Assembly from 1933 to 1935 and Diwan of Cochin kingdom from 1935 to 1941.

Shanmukham Chetty was born into a wealthy Vanika Vaisya (oil monger community) family in Coimbatore[1]in 1892 and studied at Madras Christian College and Madras Law College. On completion of his education, Shanmukham Chetty joined politics and served both in the Indian nationalist Swaraj Party as well as the Justice Party. Shanmukham Chetty was elected to the Central Legislative Assembly of India and served as its Deputy President from 1931 to 1935. After losing the 1935 elections, Chetty returned to South India where he served as Diwan of Cochin kingdom from 1935 to 1941. On India's independence in 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India controversially chose Chetty as his Finance Minister despite the latter's well known pro-British leanings. Shanmukham Chetty died on 5 May 1953.

During his public life, Chetty also identified with a number of social causes. He was a strong supporter of the Tamil Isai Movement. Shanmukham Chetty was the Finance Minister of India when the country's first budget was tabled in Parliament on 26 November 1947.

Early life

Shanmukham Chetty was born to Kandasamy Chetty in Vaaniar Street, Coimbatore on 17 October 1892. Shanmukham Chetty's grandfather Ramasami Chetty had migrated to Coimbatore in the middle of the 19th century. The family was involved in business and owned a number of mills in Coimbatore city.

Shanmukham Chetty had his schooling at Coimbatore. He studied economics at Madras Christian College and graduated in law from Madras Law College. On completion of his graduation, Shanmukham Chetty did not join the bar. Instead, he took care of the family business and after some time, entered politics.

Early political career

R. K. Shanmukham Chetty in 1924

Shanmukham Chetty joined the Justice Party and became a Councillor in the Coimbatore municipality in 1917.[2] Soon afterwards, he was elected Vice-Chairman of the Coimbatore Municipality.[3] Chetty is credited with having brought about some reforms in the municipal administration.[3]

In 1920, Shanmukham Chetty participated in the Madras Presidency legislative council elections and was elected to the Madras Legislative Council.[4] He served as a member of the Madras Legislative Council from 1920 to 1922, when he resigned.[4] He joined the Swaraj Party and was, in 1924, elected to the Central Legislative Assembly, the newly inaugurated lower house of the Imperial Legislative Council of India.[5] Chetty represented Indian employers at the International Labour Conference in Geneva in 1928, 1929 and 1932.[5] He was the Indian delegate at the Imperial Economic Conference held at Ottawa in 1932.[5]

In 1932, Shanmukhan Chetty was made Deputy-President of the Central Legislative Assembly and in 1934, made President, in succession to Sir Ibrahim Rahimtoola.[6][7] Shanmukham Chetty served as President till 1935, when he had to quit his membership of the Central legislative Assembly after losing the 1935 elections.[6]

During his tenure as member of the Central Legislative Assembly, Chetty is believed to have enjoyed the support of Lord Willingdom, who once even referred to Shanmugham Chetty as his "god-son".[8]

Later political career

Chetty served as Diwan of Cochin from 1935 to 1941.[9] During his tenure, new reforms were brought in the administration of the princely state.[8] Chetty introduced schemes for the improvement of Cochin port.[2] He also tried to do away with Hindu religious superstitions and introduce Periyar's schemes.[2] Chetty returned to Madras in 1941 and was succeeded by E. F. W. Dickinson.

In 1938, Chetty visited Geneva as the Indian delegate to the League of Nations. He was also India's delegate to the World Monetary Conference at Bretton Woods in 1944.[10] During this period, Shanmukham Chetty tried to revive the staggering Justice Party but failed.[10] For a short period, he served as constitutional advisor to the Nawab of Bhopal.[10] He also served as President of the Indian Tariff Board.[10] Due to his pro-British views, Shanmukham Chetty was not included in the Constituent Assembly.[10]

When India got independence on 15 August 1947, he is reported to have said

... we have secured freedom from foreign yoke, mainly through the operation of world events, and partly through a unique act of enlightened self-abnegation on behalf of the erstwhile rulers of the country....

Due to his expertise in economics, Shanmukham Chetty was chosen by the Father of the Nation, Mahathma Gandhi, against the wishes of Jawaharlal Nehru, to be the Finance Minister in independent India's first cabinet.[10] However, due to conflict of views with Nehru, Chetty quit after a short time.[10][11] Shanmukham Chetty is, today, remembered for presenting the first budget of independent India on 26 November 1947.[12]

Chetty returned to state politics and was re-elected to the Madras State Legislative Assembly in the 1952 elections as an independent candidate.[13] [failed verification]

Constituent Assembly Debates

In the Constituent Assembly, Chetty[15] he intervened on the issues of fiscal federalism.

The Parliament House will join with me in conveying our condolence to his family. The House may stand in silence for a minute and express its sorrow.[16]


Shanmukham Chetty suffered a severe heart attack on 3 May 1953. He succumbed to a second attack on the evening of 5 May 1953.[17]


Chetty was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire on 3 June 1933.[18] He was conferred with the degree of Doctor of Philosophy by the Annamalai University. A life-size bronze statue of Dr. Chetty was unveiled on the campus of R. K. Sreerangammal Kalvi Nilayam Higher Secondary School, Coimbatore on 6 July 2014. Kochi's Shanmugham road is named after him.[19]


  1. ^ University, Vijaya Ramaswamy, Jawaharlal Nehru (25 August 2017). Historical Dictionary of the Tamils. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-5381-0686-0.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ a b c G. Satyamurty (7 January 2009). "A visionary economist, great lawyer, great orator". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 6 July 2009.
  3. ^ a b Patriot, p. 122
  4. ^ a b The collected works of Lala Lajpat Rai, Volume 13. Manohar. 2010. p. 42.
  5. ^ a b c Sir Raymond Streat (1987). Lancashire and Whitehall: 1931–39. v. 2. 1939–57. Manchester University Press ND. ISBN 0719023904. ISBN 978-0-7190-2390-3.
  6. ^ a b Ramananda Chatterjee (1975). The Modern review, Volume 137. Modern Review Office. p. 213.
  7. ^ Mohammad Abbas Khan (2006). Indian Political System. Anmol Publications PVT LTD. p. 174. ISBN 8126125632. ISBN 978-81-261-2563-0.
  8. ^ a b Patriot, p. 123
  9. ^ "List of diwans of Kochin". worldstatesmen.org.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Patriot, p. 124
  11. ^ S. Muthiah (29 March 2004). "When the postman knocked". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 30 September 2004.
  12. ^ Bharadwaj. Study Package For Clat. Tata McGraw-Hill Education. p. 248. ISBN 0070699372. ISBN 978-0-07-069937-3.
  13. ^ "Statistical report on General Election 1951 to the Legislative Assembly of Madras" (PDF). Election Commission of India. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 February 2007.
  14. ^ "CADIndia". cadindia.clpr.org.in. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  15. ^ "CADIndia". cadindia.clpr.org.in. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  16. ^ https://eparlib.nic.in/bitstream/123456789/55530/1/lsd_01_03_06-05-1953.pdf Page no. 31
  17. ^ "This Day That Age: Shanmukham Chetti dead". The Hindu. 6 May 2003. Archived from the original on 26 March 2012.
  18. ^ The India Office and Burma Office list, Volume 56. India Office. 1947. p. 108.
  19. ^ "What's in a name: Who's this Shanmugham?". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 22 November 2023.


Further reading

Preceded byLiaquat Ali Khan Finance Minister of India 1947–1949 Succeeded byJohn Mathai