Justice Mohd. Hidayatullah

Mohammad Hidayatullah was the sixth Vice-President of India who was in this position from 31st August 1976 to 30th August 1984 who also served as the acting President of India from 20th July 1969 to 24th August 1969. He was the Chief Justice of India from 25th February 1968 to 16th December 1970.

He was born on 17th December 1905 in Lucknow in British India. He belonged to an upper class family of Khan Bahadur Hafiz Mohammed Wilayatullah. He studied at Government High School of Raipur and studied at Morris College in Nagpur and attended Trinity College at the University of Cambridge from 1927 to 1930. He was awarded Gold Medal for his performance in 1930. He got LL.D. from University of Phillippines and D. Litt from University of Bhopal and University of Kakatiya. He got a place of Barrister at Law in 1930. He married Shrimati Pushpa Shah and his son Arshad Hidayatullah is a Senior Counsel at Supreme Court of India.

He returned to India and started his career as an advocate of the High Court of Central Provinces and Berar at Nagpur on 19th July 1930. He was appointed as the Additional Judge of High Court on 24th June 1946. He was the youngest Chief Justice of High Court in 1954 when he was made as the Chief Justice of Nagpur High Court. He served in this position till 1956 and later appointed as the Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court in November 1956. He became the Justice of Supreme Court of India in December 1958. He became the first Muslim Chief Justice of India on 28th February 1968. He retired on 16th December 1970.

When the then President of India, Dr Zakir Hussain died on 3rd May 1969, the Vice President of India V V Giri was made as the acting President. However he resigned the post to take part in the president elections and Justice Mohammad Hidayatullah was made as the acting president for a short while. After his retirement he was elected as the Vice-President of India. He died on 18th September 1992.

Mohammad Hidayatullah

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Mohammad Hidayatullah
मुहम्मद हिदायतुल्लाह
محمّد هدایة اللہ
Muhammad Hidayatullah.jpg
Vice President of India
In office
31 August 1979 – 30 August 1984
President Neelam Sanjiva Reddy
Preceded by Basappa Danappa Jatti
Succeeded by Ramaswamy Venkataraman
Acting President of India
In office
20 July 1969 – 24 August 1969
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi
Preceded by Varahagiri Venkata Giri (Acting President of India)
Succeeded by Varahagiri Venkata Giri
11th Chief Justice of India
In office
25 February 1968 – 16 December 1970
Appointed by President Zakir Hussain
Preceded by Kailas Nath Wanchoo
Succeeded by Jayantilal Chhotalal Shah
Personal details
Born 17 December 1905
Lucknow, United Provinces,British India
(now in Uttar Pradesh, India)
Died 18 September 1992 (aged 86)
Bombay, Maharashtra, India
(now Mumbai)
Political party Independent
Spouse(s) Pushpa Shah
Alma mater Nagpur University
Trinity College, Cambridge
Lincoln’s Inn
Religion Islam

Mohammad Hidayatullah OBE About this sound pronunciation  (Hindi: मुहम्मद हिदायतुल्लाह, Urdu: محمّد هدایة اللہ‎) (17 December 1905 – 18 September 1992) was the eleventh Chief Justice of India serving from 25 February 1968 to 16 December 1970, and the sixth Vice-President of India, serving from 31 August 1979 to 30 August 1984. He had also served as the Acting President of India from 20 July 1969 to 24 August 1969 and from 6 October 1982 to 31 October 1982.[1] He is regarded as an eminent jurist, scholar, educationist, author and linguist.[2][3]

Early life and education[edit]

Hidayatullah was born in 1905 in the well-known family of Khan Bahadur Hafiz Mohammed Wilayatullah, an upper-class family. His grand father Munshi Kudartullah was advocate in Varanasi.[4][5] His father was a poet of all-India repute who wrote poems in Urdu and probably it must have been from him that Justice Hidayatullah got his love for language and literature. Wilayatullah was Gold medallist of Aligarh Muslim University in 1897 besting famous mathematician Sir Ziauddin Ahmad, a favourite of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. He served till 1928 in ICS and from 1929–33 as member of Central Legislative Assembly. Hidaytullah’s elder brothers Mohammed Ikramullah(ICS, later Foreign Secretary, Pakistan) and Ahmedullah (ICS, retired as Chairman, Tariff Board) were scholars as well as sportsmen. He on the other hand excelled in Urdu poetry.[6][7]

After completing primary education at the Government High School of Raipur in 1922, Hidayatullah attended Morris College in Nagpur, where he was nominated as the Phillip’s Scholar in 1926. When he graduated in 1926, he was awarded the Malak Gold Medal. Following the trend of Indians studying British law abroad, Hidayatullah attended Trinity College at the University of Cambridge from 1927 to 1930 and obtained B.A. and M.A. Degrees from there. Here he secured the 2nd order of merit and was awarded a Gold Medal for his performance in 1930. He was called to the Bar from Lincoln’s Inn when he was just 25 years old. He was awarded LL.D. (Honoris Causa) from University of the Philippines and D. Litt. (Honoris Causa) from University of Bhopal(now Barkatullah University) and University of Kakatiya. While at Cambridge, Hidayatullah was elected and served as the President of the Indian Majlis in 1929. Also while here, he pursued English and Law Tripos from the renowned Lincoln’s Inn. In addition he secured a place of Barrister-at-Law in 1930.[2][8]

Career as a lawyer[edit]

After graduation, Hidayatullah returned to India and enrolled as an advocate of the High Court of Central Provinces and Berar at Nagpur on 19 July 1930. He also taught Jurisprudence and Mahomedan Law in the University College of Law at Nagpur and was also the Extension Lecturer in English literature. On 12 December 1942, he was appointed GovernmentPleader in the High Court at Nagpur. On 2 August 1943, he became the Advocate General of Central Provinces and Berar (now Madhya Pradesh) and continued to hold the said post till he was appointed as an Additional Judge of that High Court in 1946. He had the distinction of being the youngestAdvocate General of an Indian state, Madhya Pradesh[2][9]

Judicial career[edit]

On 24 June 1946, Hidayatullah was appointed as Additional Judge of that High Court of Central Provinces and Berar and on 13 September 1946 he was appointed as permanent judge of said High Court where he served until being elevated to Chief Justice of the Nagpur High Court in 1954 on 3 December 1954, being the youngest Chief Justice of a High Court. In November 1956, he was then appointed as the Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court.[9] On 1 December 1958, he was elevated as a justice to the Supreme Court of India. In his time he was the youngest judge of the Supreme Court of India. After serving as a judge for nearly 10 years, he was appointed as the Chief Justice of India on 28 February 1968 – becoming the first Muslim Chief Justice of India. He retired from this position on 16 December 1970.[4][5][9]

Other roles[edit]


During his term as the Chief Justice of India, the then President of India, Dr Zakir Hussain died suddenly, in harness, on 3 May 1969. Then Vice President of India Mr.V V Giri became the acting President. Later, V V Giri resigned from both the posts, viz, acting President and Vice-President, as he became a candidate in the Presidential Election 1969. Justice M. Hidayatullah then served as the President of India for a short period from 20 July to 24 August, as the Constitution of India states that, in the absence of President and Vice-President, the CJI should act as the President. The visit of President of the United States Mr. Richard Nixon to India made his Presidential term historic.

After his retirement, Justice Hidayatullah was elected as the Vice-President of India by a consensus among different parties and occupied that high office with distinction from 1979 to August 1984. During his tenure as the Vice-President, he won the respect of all concerned for his impartiality and independence.

In 1982, when the then President Gyani Zail Singh went to the U.S. for medical treatment, Vice-President Justice M. Hidayatullah officiated as President from 6 October 1982 to 31 October 1982. Thus, he officiated as acting President twice.

Having served at all of these positions made Hidayatullah unique among other members of Indian history. Justice Hidayatullah became the only person to have served in all three offices of Chief Justice of India, President of India, and the Vice President of India.[4][5]

During his long tenure in the Supreme Court he was a party to a number of landmark judgments including the judgment in Golaknath v. State of Punjab which took the view that the Parliament had no power to cut down the Fundamental Rights by constitutional amendment. His judgment in the case of Ranjit D. Udeshi[10] dealing with the law of obscenity, displayed a flair for literature which is not so common among our judges.

Career in Nagpur[edit]

Before being elevated as a judge to High Court, Hidayatullah was involved in local and state affairs. The following are some of the committee positions he held:

  • Member of the Nagpur Municipal Committee (1931–1933)
  • Member of the Nagpur University’s Executive and Academic Councils (1934–1953)
  • Member of the Nagpur Improvement Trust (1943–1945)
  • Member of the Nagpur Bar Council (1943–1946)
  • Chief Commissioner of the Madhya Pradesh Bharat Scouts and Guides (1950–1953)

Many of these positions, as well as those of High Court Justice were held prior to Indian Independence, they were all considered service to Great Britain, thus Hidayatullah was conferred the honour as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by King George VI in the1946 King’s Birthday Honours.[7]

Teaching and other associations[edit]

The entrance to the Justice Hidayatullah Moot Court Hall, named after Mohammad Hidayatullah, in theNational Law School of India Universityin Bangalore

Having received an education at one of the premier legal institutions of the time, Hidayatullah was able to segue into an academic career not long after returning to India. In 1935, he took a teaching post at University College of Law, where he taught until 1943. Later he served as Dean of the Faculty of Law at Nagpur University from 1949 to 1953. In addition, he served as Faculty of Law at various other institutions throughout the 1950s: Sagar University, Court Vikram University, and the prestigious Aligarh Muslim University. He was Pro-Chancellor of the Delhi University from 1968 to 1970, Chancellor of the Jamia Millia Islamia from 1969 to 1985, Chancellor of the Delhi and Punjab Universities between 1979 and 1984 and Chancellor of the Hyderabad University from 1986 to 1990. He was the President of the Indian Law Institute from 1963 to 1970, President of the International Law Association (Indian Branch) from 1968 to 1970 and of the Indian Society of International Law in 1969-70.[2]

He was, at one time, a Member of the Executive Council of the World Assembly of Judges and of the Managing Committee of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law. He was a Member of the International Council of Former Scouts and Guides, Brussels, and Chief Scout of the Boys Scouts Association of India. Post-retirement, Hidayatullah renewed his interest in Boy Scouts and served as Chief Scout of the All India Boy Scouts Association from 1982 to 1992. He held the posts of the President of Bombay Natural History Society and of the Patron of Schizophrenic Research Foundation of India and Commonwealth Society of India. He was also a Member of the World Association for Orphans and Abandoned Children and a Settlor of the Jawaharlal Nehru Cambridge University Trust. He also represented India in International Conferences held in different countries and cities, such as, Washington, London, Geneva, Sydney, the Hague, Tokyo, Stockholm, Belgrade, Cairo and Bangkok.[2]

Scholar and linguist[edit]

Hidayatullah was a scholar in Hindi, English, Urdu, Persian and French. He had working knowledge of some other Indian languages including Sanskrit and Bengali.[11]


He was the president of Indian Law Institute, International Law Association (Indian Branch), Indian Society of International Law from 1968 to 1970. He also presided the Indian Red Cross Society in 1982. He was closely associated with Hunger Project of USA, World Association of Orphans and Abandoned Children (Geneva), and Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Issues (1982–84).

The Hidayatullah National Law University at Naya Raipur is named after him.


  • Democracy in India and the Judicial Process, 1966 by Asia Publishing House (1967).[12]
  • The South-West Africa Case,Published 1967 by Asia Publishing House (1966).
  • Judicial Methods Published for the Institute of Constitutional and Parliamentary Studies by National Publishing House (1970).
  • A Judge’s Miscellany, N. M. Tripathi (1972).
  • USA and India: All India Reporter (1977).
  • A Judge’s Miscellany (Second Series) N. M. Tripathi(1972).
  • The Fifth and Sixth Schedules to the Constitution of India, Ashok Pub. House
  • My own Boswell (Autobiography) Arnold-Heinemann (1980).
  • Editor, Mulla’s Mohammedan Law
  • Constitutional law of India: Bar Council of India Trust (1984).
  • Right to property and the Indian Constitution: Calcutta University (1984).
  • Justice Hidayatullah on commercial laws: Deep & Deep (1982).

Awards and honours[edit]

  • Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), 1946 King’s Birthday Honours[13]
  • Order of the Yugoslav Flag with Sash, 1970,
  • Medallion and Plaque of Merit Philconsa, Manila, 1970 and
  • Knight of Mark Twain, 1971;
  • Honoured with “Proud Past Alumni” in the list of 42 members, from “Allahabad University Alumni Association”, NCR, Ghaziabad (Greater Noida) Chapter 2007-2008 registered under society act 1860 with registration no. 407/2000.[14][15][16]
  • Honorary Bencher of Lincoln’s Inn, 1968;* President of Honour, Inns of Courts Society, India.
  • War Service Badge, 1948;
  • Key of the City of Manila, 1971;
  • Shiromani Award, 1986;
  • Architects of India Award, 1987;
  • Dashrathmal Singhvi Memorial Award of the Banaras HinduUniversity.[2]

Between 1970 and 1987, as many as 12 Indian Universities and the University of Philippines conferred upon him the honorary degreeof Doctorate of Law or Literature.[2]


In his honor, the Hidayatullah National Law University was established in 2003, in his home town of Raipur, in the state of Chhattisgarh.[9] University also organises Justice Hidayatullah Memorial National Moot Court Competition (HNMCC) in his memory.[17]

Personal life[edit]

In 1948, Hidayatullah married Pushpa Shah who was Hindu by religion. Their son Arshad Hidayatullah is a Senior Counsel at the Supreme Court of India.[3]

See also[edit]

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