The Significance of 29th January

The appointment of Hon’ble Justice Mirza Hameedullah Beg as the new Chief Justice of India in succession to Hon’ble Justice A.N. Ray on January 29, 1977 raised another wave of protest. Hon’ble Justice H.R. Khanna was superseded.

The Supreme Court Bar Association, Vice President Gobinda Mukhtoy: “The evil and dark forces have struck again. Now a citizen will be hesitant to come before the Highest Court of the Land, if he has to seek relief against the State or the Union.”

Law Minister H.R. Gokhale ‘clarified’ that Justice Beg had been appointed because Justice Khanna would have been a CJI for 5 Months, 5 Days only.

Calcutta Lawyer, Somnath Chatterjee: “A respected, honest, upright Judge has been sacrificed at the altar of political expediency.”

The next 2 CJIs, Y.V. Chandrachud and P.N. Bhagwati, were on Hon’ble Justice A.N. Ray’s side in the ‘notorious ruling’ of 1976. Both however realized the blunder later and washed away the blot by their future performance and pronouncement, thus it was written.

In his autobiography Neither Roses Nor Thorns, Justice Khanna ‘revealed’ that he knew that his Dissenting Judgement in ADM Jabalpur had cost him the chair of CJI.

Justice Beg’s Arrival

After M. Hidayatullah’s retirement in December 1970, the SCI was without a Muslim Judge. According to Beg, Mrs. Gandhi wanted him appointed. But he had served only 7 1/2 Years on the Allahabad Bench, and was No. 15 in seniority. A solution to his seniority shortcoming was found when Himachal Pradesh gained statehood in 1971 and a new High Court was created at Simla. Beg was transferred to the High Court as its First Chief Justice on 25.01.1971. His sojourn at Simla was brief for he was sworn in as a SCI Judge on 12.10.1971. 1988, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s Government awarded him the Padma Vibhushan, for his contributions to law and jurisprudence.”

– George H. Gadbois, Jr., Judges of the Supreme Court of India 1950-1989, Oxford.

Hon’ble Justice H.R. Khanna, the good one, received his Padma Vibhushan, all of 11 years later, in 1999.

The Sixth President
July, 1977