Mohammad Hidayatullah

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Mohammad Hidayatullah
मुहम्मद हिदायतुल्लाह
محمّد ہدایت ا للہ

Muhammad Hidayatullah.jpg
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
Vice President of India
In office
20 August 1977 – 20 August 1982
President Neelam Sanjiva Reddy
Preceded by Basappa Danappa Jatti
Succeeded by Ramaswamy Venkataraman
Chief Justice of India
In office
25 February 1968 – 16 December 1970
Preceded by Kailas Nath Wanchoo
Succeeded by Jayantilal Chhotalal Shah
Personal details
Born (1905-12-17)17 December 1905
Lucknow, United Provinces, British India
(now in Uttar Pradesh, India)
Died 18 September 1992(1992-09-18) (aged 86)
Bombay, Maharashtra, India
(now Mumbai)
Political party Independent
Spouse(s) Shrimati 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 ہدایت اللہ‎) (December 17, 1905 – 18 September 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.

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.[1][2] 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.[3]

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. Following the trend of Indians studying British law abroad, Hidayatullah attended Trinity College at the University of Cambridge from 1927 to 1930. 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. Hidaytullah grand father Munshi Kudartullah was Advocate in Varanasi. His son Arshad Hidayatullah is a Senior Counsel at the Supreme Court of India.

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. He honored with “Proud Past Alumni" in the list of 42 members, from "Allahabad University Alumni Association", Allahabad University registered under society act 1860 with registration no. 407/2000.[4][5][6]

Judicial career[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. 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 on the 24th. of June 1946.[7]

Hidayatullah was the youngest Advocate General of an Indian state, Madhya Pradesh, in 1943 and the youngest Chief Justice of a High Court when he was appointed to the Madhya Pradesh High Court in 1954.

In 1946, Hidayatullah was appointed as a judge at the Nagpur High Court, where he served until being elevated to Chief Justice of the Nagpur High Court in 1954. Hidayatullah served as the Chief Justice here until 1956, and was subsequently appointed the Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in November 1956.

Following this longstanding experience in the state's court circuit, Hidayatullah was eventually elevated as a Justice to the Supreme Court of India in December 1958. In his time he was the youngest judge of the Supreme Court of India. After serving as a Justice for nearly 10 years, Hidayatullah took the oath as 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.[1][2]

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 May 3, 1969. Then Vice President of India Mr.V V Giri became the acting President. V V Giri resigned to take part in Presidential elections. Justice Hidayatullah then served as the President of India being ex officio Chief Justice of India for a short period from 20 July to 24 August. 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.

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.[1][2]

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[8] dealing with the law of obscenity, displayed a flair for literature which is not so common among our judges.

Career in Nagpur[edit]

Before becoming involved in national politics and serving as Supreme Court Justice, 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 the 1946 King's Birthday Honours.


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.

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. [1]


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 ) 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).[9]
  • 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[10]
  • 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.[11][12][13]


In his honor, the Hidayatullah National Law University was established in 2003, in his home town of Raipur, in the state of Chhattisgarh.[7]


  1. ^ a b c "M. Hidayatullah". Retrieved 2008-06-08. 
  2. ^ a b c "EBC article on J. Hidayatullah". Retrieved 2008-06-08. 
  3. ^ Full Court Reference in Memory of The Late Justice M. Hidayatullah by M.H. Kania, Chief Justice of India: (1992) 4 SCC (Jour) 1
  4. ^ " Proud Past Alumni Allahabad University"[dead link]
  5. ^ " Internet Archive of Proud Past Alumni"
  6. ^ "" Internet Archive of Proud Past Alumni"
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ Ranjit D. Udeshi v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1965 SC 881
  9. ^ Books by M. Hidayatullah: getCITED
  10. ^ The London Gazette, 13 June 1946
  11. ^ "He is Proud Past Alumni Allahabad University". Allahabad university Alumni Association web page say
  12. ^ " Internet Archive of Proud Past Alumni"
  13. ^ "" Internet Archive of Proud Past Alumni"

est in 2005

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Kailas Nath Wanchoo
Chief Justice of India
Succeeded by
Jayantilal Chhotalal Shah
Preceded by
Varahagiri Venkata Giri
President of India

Succeeded by
Varahagiri Venkata Giri
Preceded by
Basappa Danappa Jatti
Vice President of India
Succeeded by
Ramaswamy Venkataraman