Mahendra Pal Singh

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Mahendra Pal Singh (born 15 July 1940), popularly known as M.P. Singh, is a renowned constitutional law scholar of India. He is best known amongst students of Constitution of India for being the revising author of V.N. Shukla's Constitution of India a standard textbook for lawyers on Constitution of India. Internationally however, he is more famous amongst scholars of comparative constitutional law and comparative administrative law for his work, German Administrative Law in Common Law Perspective.

Early life and influences[edit]

Professor Singh was born in an ordinary farmer's family in a village called Jitholi in the district of Meerut in Uttar Pradesh. Having lost his parents at a very young age, he was brought up by his grand parents. Most of his childhood and adulthood were spent in this rural environment, an element which according to him as left a lasting impression on his understanding of the nature of Indian legal systems. He did his Bachelor in Arts from the University of Agra, followed by an Ll. B. from the same institution. He has said that he was motivated to study Constitution after having read Professor Corwin's "The Higher Law" Background of American Constitutional Law. He read for his Ll. M. degree at the University of Lucknow under the guidance of the leading constitutional law expert, Professor V. N. Shukla, whose learned work on Indian Constitution he now revises. He later followed it up with another Ll. M. at the Columbia Law School, where he had the opportunity to study under one of the foremost authorities on administrative law and civil liberties, Professor Walter Gellhorn. He came back to India to read for his Ll. D. from the University of Lucknow. In 1970, Professor Singh joined the Faculty of Law, University of Delhi, where he was to remain as a Professor of Law till 2005. In the University of Delhi, Professor P. K. Tripathi had an important influence on his work. From 1980 till 1982 and then again in 1985, he studied and researched in Germany at the South Asia Institute of the University of Heidelberg, and at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law. The result was not only a fruition of learned academics, but also lifelong association with leading German scholars. Most important of these was Professor Dietrich Conrad, one of the leading scholars of constitutional law from post-World War II Germany. Another important influence has been Honourable Mr. Justice M. N. Venkatachaliah, the former Chief Justice of India.

Career[edit]

He started his career as a lecturer in law at the University of Meerut, but later moved to the Faculty of Law, University of Delhi. He also served as the Director of the Indian Law Institute. From December 2006 to December 2011, he was the Vice-Chancellor of The West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata. He was also the Editor-in-Chief of the NUJS Law Review, which is a quarterly publication of that university.[1] Presently he has been appointed as the Chairperson of the Delhi Judicial Academy.[2]

On his 70th birthday on 15 July 2010, a festschrift titled "Law and (In) Equalities" was released in his honour.[3] The book dwells on the aspects of societal inequality in India, a theme which has remained central to Professor Singh's study of Indian Constitution and law. In another gesture, on 12 December 2009, the All India Law Teacher's Congress presented Professor Singh the 'Life Time Best Teacher Award'.

Central themes in work[edit]

Unarguably, Professor Singh's most important contribution has been by way of analysing and understanding persistent inequalities in Indian society. Within the framework of Indian Constitution, he has argued for a distinction between distributive justice and compensatory justice, emphasising upon the importance of the latter in battling the age old hierarchies within Indian society. His work on reservation for backward classes and minorities has led to him to conclude that the fundamental rights mentioned in the Constitution should be interpreted in an Indian context, which means that a betterment of the society has to be brought about in terms of understanding and improving the Indian ways of life, rather than attempting their surgical replacement.

Positions held[edit]

Professor Singh has been a fellow and visiting professor at several institutions and universities of international repute. In 1985 he was designated as the Professor of Law in the Faculty of Law, University of Delhi. in 1994, he was appointed as the Dean of the Faculty of Law, and Head of the Department of Law, University of Delhi, positions that he retained till 1997. In 1980–1982 and again in 1985 he was Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at the University of Heidelberg. The result of this stay was not only his works on German administrative law, and on minorities, but also a long and fruitful association between Indian and German legal academia. He briefly served as the Director of the Indian Law Institute in 1997. He joined the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences as its Vice-Chancellor in December 2006.

Professor Singh was also a visiting professor and Head of Law Division at the South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg in 1987–88 and visiting professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Heidelberg in 1991–92. In 1999–2000 and 2001 he was fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Heidelberg. He was a visiting professor at the University of Hong Kong and the City University of Hong Kong in 1993, 1994, 1995, 1998, 2000 and 2005, Kansai University, Osaka in 2002, National University of Singapore in 2005 and Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi in 2006. In 2002–03 he was fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, Berlin[4] and in 2004, at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. In 2008 Renmin University of China, Beijing honoured him as visiting professor for three years. His publications include over one hundred papers in different legal journals and edited works and ten books including German Administrative Law in Common Law Perspective, Freedom of Trade and Commerce in India, Comparative Constitutional Law, Legal Dimensions of Market Economy and Human Rights and Basic Needs.[5]

Work on legal education in India[edit]

Professor Singh has laid especial emphasis in making legal education more meaningful to Indian society by making the top law schools more accessible to the students from less privileged background. At NUJS, and since, he has been leading an effort called IDIA, or 'Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access', which involves an engagement with school going children from different parts of semi-urban and rural India and to encourage and help them enter the top law schools of the country. Towards the same end, he has also been heading a group of academicians, called the Legal Education and Research Society or 'LEARS' as it is popularly referred to. He has also been running a school in his village Jitholi for the children of the nearby places. Students from NUJS and volunteers from IDIA have often visited and interacted with the kids of this school.[6]

Personal life[edit]

He is married to Mrs. Sarla Singh, who herself has been a teacher. Their three children are Sandhya, Shailendra and Swati.

References[edit]

Preceded by
B.S. Chimni
Vice Chancelor of NUJS
December 2006 – December 2012
Succeeded by
Ishwara P Bhatt