Mohammad Hidayatullah

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Justice Hidayatullah memorial lecture

Mohammad Hidayatullah OBE (Hindi: मुहम्मद हिदायतुल्लाह, Urdu: محمّد ہدایت اللہ‎) (December 17, 1905September 18, 1992) was the eleventh Chief Justice of India, serving from February 25, 1968 to December 16, 1970, and the sixth Vice-President of India, serving from August 20, 1979 to August 20, 1984. As the Chief Justice of India, he had also served as the Acting President of India from July 20, 1969 to August 24, 1969.


  • This was an attempt of not creating 'forward looking judges' but the 'judges looking forward' to the plumes of the office of Chief Justice.

Speech By Mr. S. G. Page, Government Pleader, High Court, Bombay, Made On Monday, 28 September, 1992


In: Speeches [ Speech By Mr. S. G. Page, Government Pleader, High Court, Bombay, Made On Monday, 28 September, 1992.

  • The Judge should certainly consider what is happening around him, but his interpretation should strictly be judicial.
    • His interpretation on the view once expressed by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru that a Judge should also keep in mind the social values while delivering his Judgment.
  • I was never in the mood of Lord Macaulay who said – I shall retire early I am very tired– I know that life meant that one must continue to occupy his time with work.
  • ...we need not shed tears over what has happened and we can look forward – not be forward looking, but look forward – to an era which will be as good as the one which has gone before.

Full Court Reference in Memory of The Late Justice M. Hidayatullah


In: M.H. Kania Full Court Reference in Memory of The Late Justice M. Hidayatullah, Eastern Book Company

  • Please do not worry, I never read anything which you write.
    • When a colleague in the court had sent him disparaging remarks on the sides and as a foot note on his draft of a judgement with the comment “Please do not read the marginal comments. They are not for your eyes."
  • Where obscenity and art are mixed art must be so preponderating as to throw the obscenity into shadow.
  • The artistic appeal or presentation of an episode robs it of its vulgarity and harm...
    • His view as a connoisseur of art
  • Law and order represents the largest circle within which is the next circle representing public order and the smallest circle represents security of State. It is then easy to see that an Act may affect law and order but not public order, just as an act may affect public order but not security of the State.
    • He explained the intricate relationship of the concepts of law and order, public order and the security of the State, in a particular case.
  • The State is at the centre and the society surrounds it. Disturbances of society go in a broad spectrum from more disturbance of the serenity of life to jeopardy of the State. The acts become graver (and graver) as we journey from the peripheral of the largest circle towards the centre. In this journey we travel first through public tranquility, then through public order and lastly to the security of the State.
    • In one of his judgements.
  • Liberty of the Individual has to be Fundamental and it has been so declared by the people... To change the Fundamental part of Individual's liberty is a usurpation of constituent functions because they have been placed outside the scope of the power of the constituted Parliament.
    • His judgement in another case on the issue of Fundamental Rights.
  • In the most inalienable of such rights a distinction must be made between possession of a right and its exercise. The first is fixed and the latter controlled by justice and necessity.
    • His further views on Fundamental Rights
  • It is true that Judges, as the upholders of the Constitution and the laws, are least likely to err but the possibility of their acting contrary to the Constitution cannot be completely excluded.
  • If a Judge, without any reason, orders the members of say one political party out of his Court, those so ordered may seek to enforce their fundamental rights against him and it should make no difference that the order is made while he sits as a Judge. Even if appeal lies against such an order, the defect on which relief can be claimed, is the breach of fundamental rights.
  • There is no higher principle for the guidance of the Court than the one that no act of Courts should harm a litigant and it is the bounden duty of Courts to see that if a person is harmed by a mistake of the Court he should be restored to the position he would have occupied but for that mistake.

Law in the Scientific Era


M. Hidayatullah in: Law in the Scientific Era, Universal Law Publishing, 1 January 2003

  • I chose the title of the book from Oliver Wendel Holme’s subtitle to his Aristocrat of the Breakfast Table; Every man His own Boswell. I was a miscellanist before I attempted a full length book. I learnt the art of narration from Boswell. After all even Macaulay, in spite of many hard things he said of Boswell, did acknowledge that he was the first of biographers and the world has since considered him the greatest.
    • In: P.vii.
  • I crave to be understood because when a person writes about himself, he does not work in obscurity but a little too much in the light which he focuses on himself. To me the satisfaction comes from the fact that at least I have said something about myself in my own voice without ‘paraphrasing any hard truths’.
    • In: P.vii.
  • The family connection with the Hindu Holy of Holies (Benares) was apparent in the many Hindu traditions and customs observed in our house-hold. Beef was as taboo as pork was and Divali used to be observed with Divas, as indeed several other Hindu festivals. The orthodox Muslims looked askance at us and we merited Iqbal’s couplet: "The orthodox preacher considers me as an Unbeliever and Unbleiver thinks I am a Muslim."
    • In: P.2.
  • While in London I became interested in speaking in public. I lectured at Hyde Park Corner when the Simon Commission was being boycotted in India as no Indian was a member. I stood the heckling well and even indulged in a little ridicule. People completely ignorant of India and Indian conditions would heckle me. One fellow claimed that he had lived in India and Kabul which he asserted was the capital of India.
    • In: P.47-48.
  • I spoke in debates arranged by the Indian students in London and once V.K.Krishna Menon opposed me. The debate concerned the role of Asia in world affairs and I used the word Asiatic. Menon raised a laugh against me by saying that he did not like the word because it rhymed with ‘lunatic’ although I should consider myself free to use it. He advised me to use the word ‘Asian’ instead. When my turn came for reply, I thanked him for his advice but preferred to stick to the Asiatics adding that he had no objection of Menon calling an Asian although the word rhymed with ‘Simian’. This brought the house down and even Menon joined in the laughter and clapping.
    • In: P.48.
  • I was so excited to hear the Trinity College the first night of my stay in the College:
    Trinity’s loquacious clock
    Who never let the quarters, night and day,
    Slip by him improclaimed, and told the hours
    Twice over with a male and female voice...
  • In the car, President Nixon seemed relaxed and quite flattered by the response of the people. Characteristically he asked me: “Mr President, do people always turn out like this to greet the Indian President or is this because of the President of the United States?” I sensed the comparison. I quietly replied ”Mr President, I would suspect that many youngsters are here to see what a bullet-proof car looks like!” He smiled and replied “You have a point there!”.
    • During the official visit of President Richard Nixon to India, quoted In: P.250.
...with the escort of the Military Secretaries, aids-de-camp and the President’s Body Guard, all in their splendid uniforms We made a glittering sight...
  • ...with the escort of the Military Secretaries, aids-de-camp and the President’s Body Guard, all in their splendid uniforms We made a glittering sight. Even in my best dress I looked drab beside my wife in a simple and well-chosen ensemble. I felt a little pride but was reminded of the entry of Caliph Omar into Damascus. He was offered ths surrender of the city if he came to the city in person. Omar rode his one-eyed camel with a servant on foot, and they traveled equal distance on foot in turn and rode in turn. Near Damascus, Omer was met by his generals Abu Obaida and Khalid bin Walid. Seeing his tattered and travel-worn dress they insisted that he should change into proper clothes and ride a caparisoned charger. Omar gave in and followed their advice. Very soon afterwards he stopped and asked for his former clothes and his camel saying “Pride is entering my soul, and the Prophet said that if a man has pride, the size of a mustard seed, he will not enter Paradise. I felt ashamed of myself and put aside the feeling at once and began thinking of other things.

About Mohammad Hidayatullah


Full Court Reference in Memory of The Late Justice Mohammad Hidayatullah


P.D. Desai]] in: Full Court Reference in Memory of The Late Justice Mohammad Hidayatullah, Eastern Book Company

  • His was the variegated and distinguished career of the eminent jurist, scholar, educationist, author and linguist. During his life span of four score and seven years symbolised significant achievement at each important stage, bringing honour and glory not only to himself but also to the institutions which he served and to our country.
  • As Vice President, he presided over the Rajya Sabha and conducted its proceedings with great dexterity and wisdom. During his tenure as Vice President, he again acted as the President in 1982.
  • He was sworn in as the Acting President of India on 20th July 1969 and served in that capacity till late V. V. Giri was sworn in as the duly elected President of the Republic. After his retirement as the Chief Justice of India, he was unanimously elected as the Vice President of India as a result of a consensus amongst different political parties and occupied that high office with distinction from 1979 to 1984.
  • He was a warm and friendly person who could mix with one and all on even terms.
  • During his long tenure in the Supreme Court, he was a party to and author of a number of landmark judgments.
  • In his concurring judgment in Golaknath v. State of Punjab (AIR 1967 SC 1643), he held that fundamental rights are outside the amendatory process, if the amendment seeks to abridge or take away any of the rights, and that for abridging or taking away fundamental rights, a constituent body will have to be convoked.
  • In his leading majority judgment in Madhav Rao Scindia v. Union of India (AIR 1971 SC 530), popularly known as Privy Purse case, he held that the Order of the President directing that Madhavrao Scindia would cease to be recognised as the Ruler of Gwalior on and with effect from the date of the said order was ultra virus. This declaration of law resulted in restoration of the Privy Purses received by the Rulers and also ensured continuance of their personal privileges.
  • His Judgment in E. M. S. Namboodripad v. T.N. Nambiar (AIR 1970 SC 2015) illustrates his deep study of the teachings of Marx, Engels and Lenin. Indeed, in the course of the said judgment, he pointed out how Communists in our country distorted the approach of those eminent men.

Speech By Mr. S. G. Page, Government Pleader, High Court, Bombay, Made OnMonday, 28 September, 1992


Speeches in [ Speech By Mr. S. G. Page, Government Pleader, High Court, Bombay, Made OnMonday, 28 September, 1992

  • He had been an extremely thorough and patient Judge with unremitting industry and keen sense to discover truth and do justice. Law, liberty and justice were upheld with consummate ability and independence by His Lordship. On public controversies, some of his judgments are thought provoking. He disputed the correctness of any attempt to whittle down fundamental rights while making it clear that the right to property was not forever sacrosanct. The distinction between the law and order and the public order, has been brought out succinctly in his reported judgments.
    • By S.G.Page
  • He was a man of many parts – Law, Literature, Public Affairs, International Affairs and Education. In the field of Law he held all offices which any lawyer can aspire to hold – Government Pleader; Advocate General of C.P. & Berar; Judge of the Nagpur High Court; Chief Justice of the Nagpur, High Court; Judge of the Supreme Court and culminating as the Chief Justice of India. He served as a Judge for 25 years.
    • By J.R. Jagrat
  • The pages of the Law Reports reflect as much his legal learning and contribution to the development of the law, as his erudition; his judgments were all written with elegance and were often infused with the appropriate literary allusion.
    • By I.M Chagla
  • As Acting President and Vice President, he walked with Kings, Presidents and Prime Ministers, but never lost the common touch. He was always approachable and was kindliness to all. He brought to his chamber work, in his Opinions and in arbitrations, an understanding and humanity, and gave satisfaction to all.
    • By I.M Chagla
  • As Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, he had the awesome task of dealing with some unruly scenes. He did so with aplomb and finesse, often with a witticism that helped defuse the situation.
    • By I.M Chagla

Full Court Reference in Memory of The Late Justice M. Hidayatullah


M.H. Kania in: Full Court Reference in Memory of The Late Justice M. Hidayatullah, Eastern Book Company

  • He was one of the few judges who could occasionally poke fun at himself. He told me that once he was sitting at a dinner at the Cambridge University where a number of distinguished persons had been invited. Next to him was an elderly gentleman whose identity he did not know. There was some discussion about the theory of relativity and he aired his own views with a certain measure of authority. His neighbour told him that his views were interesting and invited him for a cup of tea in the next two or three days. Later on he found out that he had been talking to the world renowned physicist Sir Arthur Eddington who was reputed as one of the few persons apart from Einstein who understood the theory of relativity. He never picked up the courage to go for that cup of tea and face Sir Arthur Eddington.
  • In one of his judgments he took the view that the works contracts should be really treated as divisible for the purposes of sales tax has now found acceptance by way of amendment of the relevant constitutional entries and the relevant laws.
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