Retired judge of Andhra Pradesh High Court Justice Kothapalli Punnaiah died of ill health in Visakhapatnam Saturday. He had been on ventilator support for the past few days and breathed his last Saturday morning, family sources said. He was 95. He had been ailing for some time now and admitted to a private hospital in the port city in October, they said. Puniah served as an MLA from 1955 and also vice-chairman of Srikakulam Zilla Parishad. His daughter and senior TDP leader K Pratibha Bharati served as a minister in the Chandrababu Naidu Cabinet in the 1990s and became the first woman Speaker of the erstwhile united AP Assembly. She also served as an MLC. Punnaiah quit politics in 1962 and became a practising lawyer in the AP High Court and became a judge in 1974. He served in that capacity till 1985. In the year 2001, he was made Chairman of the state SC, ST Commission.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, Leader of Opposition Y S Jaganmohan Reddy and several other leaders condoled the death of Justice Punnaiah and extended sympathies to the bereaved family. "In Punnaiah's death, not only AP but also the country lost a legal luminary and a social reformer. As Chairman of SC, ST Commission, he came up with valuable recommendations for the uplift of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. He also fought against caste discrimination," Naidu recalled in a statement. In his condolence message, YSRC president Jaganmohan Reddy said Punnaiah was a legal luminary and well respected. State Finance Minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu said Punnaiah made significant contribution for the development of the backward Srikakulam district.