Some Judges and Lawyers Whom I Knew

K N Katju


K N Katju

Kailash Nath Katju (1887-1968) was one of India's prominent lawyers. He fought for India's freedom from the British and spent several years in jail. He defended the accused in the Meerut Conspiracy Case in Allahabad High Court in 1933. Later, he defended the military officers accused at the INA trial at Red Fort in Delhi. He was a Union Home and Defence Minister, and then the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh 1957-62.

Editor's note: This article is taken from the website of the Allahabad High Court. It is a speech delivered on the occasion of the celebration of the centenary of the Allahabad High Court in Novermber 1966.

Only selected excerpts from the original article are presented below. The full article is available in the attached pdf file. 

I started my career of legal profession in Kanpur in the year 1908 and shifted to the High Court Bar at Allahabad in March 1914. At that time there were 7 Judges in the Allahabad High Court, the Chief Justice being Sir Henry Richards.

Among them, two were very senior learned Judges - Sir George Knox, I. C. S. and Sir Parmoda Charan Bannerji, P. C. S. [Editor's note: I. C. S. refers to Indian Civil Service, and P. C. S. refers to Provincial Civil Service]. They had been appointed in 1890 and 1892 respectively. They were then two of the oldest Judges in the High Courts of India.


Sir George Knox was the Administration Judge also in the Allahabad High Court and continued as the Administration Judge for very many years. He generally used to sit alone all by himself and was considered to be an ordinary but slow Judge not very alert and given almost to an occasional napping on the bench. He was a kind-hearted Judge and was indeed kind towards all juniors who appeared before him.

In my younger days I used to appear before him occasionally. One scene I always remember, it was so amusing. I was arguing a criminal revision before him. The accused-applicant had been convicted of house-breaking at night. The master of the house had left his home to catch a night train at a railway station some miles away from the village. Unfortunately, he missed the train and had to return home at about 2 o'clock at night. He found the door open and the accused inside the home. He caught hold of him and took him to the police station on a charge of housebreaking at night. The defence of the accused was that there was no question of any house-breaking at all. One of the female residential of the house who knew him well had called him and he had gone there on her invitation. This explanation was not believed by the lower courts and he was convicted.

In my youthful enthusiasm I dwelt upon it with great warmth and pleaded strenuously in the alternative for the reduction of the sentence. I urged that there was no intention on his part to commit any criminal offence. The accused was only carrying on a love affair and so on. Sir George Knox appeared to me to be listening to me with great attention and I thought that I was making a great impression upon him and that added to the vehemence of my argument. Suddenly Sir George Knox burst forth with the remark, "I have been considering whether it is not a case for enhancement of the sentence. Just imagine a Gadaria breaking into the house of a Brahmin for nefarious activities like this."  I was literally stunned and at once collapsed and sat down. The application was dismissed.

I remember another case in which my honoured friend Sri Shyam Kishan Dar was arguing a second appeal before Sir George Knox with great eloquence and persuasion. I was appearing for the respondent in that appeal. I was sitting close to Sri S. K. Dar. I do not know what happened to me. I suddenly rose and submitted "My Lord, my learned friend is indebted to his imagination for his facts and to his fancy for his arguments" and then deliberately I moved three chairs away from Sri S. K. Dar noticeably apprehending some aggressive movement from his side. Sir George was struck by the comedy of the scene, and he laughed outright. Sri Dar, of course, was furious.

Sir George had become accustomed to sitting singly and everybody thought that he used to take the discharge of his judicial duties on the Bench very lightly. When Sir Grimwood Mears came to Allahabad as a Chief Justice of the High Court we all thought he took notice of the current situation and began to sit with Sir George Knox on a Division Bench. Sir George now had to keep awake and apply his mind continuously to the case before him. He could not stand this mental pressure very long and I think in a few months he resigned.

Sir Pramoda Charan Bannerji was very wide awake and he was held in the highest respect as the most learned and experienced Judge of the High Court. One scene I shall always remember. He was sitting with Sir Henry Richards on a Division Bench and hearing a criminal appeal. It soon became apparent that the two learned Judges were taking, different views in the case before them. The difference gradually became so acute that they practically ceased to be on speaking terms with each other and they began talking to each other through the counsel before them. One of them would put a question to the counsel and the other Judge would intervene by saying "I suppose your answer would be this." The arguments were concluded and the Chief Justice being the senior Judge dictated his judgment. He dictated it on his own behalf and gave expression to his own views and findings and concluded by saying that "I would, therefore, allow the appeal" and so on.

He was then followed by Sir Pramoda Charan Bannerji who in his judgment again in the first person singular dealt with the arguments advanced by the Chief Justice and countered them by his own views. We all thought that the two Judges were differing completely from each other and the case would have to go before a third Judge for final decision. We were also noticing that Sir Henry Richards had become absolutely quiet and was listening to Sir Pramoda Charan Bannerji with his eyes closed. Suddenly, everybody was immensely taken aback when Sir Pramoda Charan Bannerji began saying "but inasmuch as the learned Chief Justice had taken a contrary view I am not prepared to differ and I would also, therefore, allow the appeal" and so on. The whole Court was filled with excitement. Sir Henry Richards woke up. His face was glowing and jubilant and he rose in his seat and turning towards Sir Pramoda Charan Bannerji solemnly bowed to him, his face wreathed in smiles. The Court atmosphere was suddenly changed. It was indeed an extraordinary glorious scene. This is a story I think of 1915 or 1916.


In my practice in the High Court from 1914 to 1937 I had the privilege and good fortune of appearing before many Judges in the High Court. They were all able, competent, learned and extremely anxious to administer complete impartial justice between the parties. Among them all Sir Henry Richards, the Chief Justice, who retired in 1917, was undoubtedly an outstanding personality. He was extremely quick-witted, intelligent and of a forceful penetrating intellect. He would soon come to the point and would love to dispose of the case as quickly as possible. He was a dominant personality anxious always to encourage deserving young men appearing before him but he would tolerate no misbehaviour of any kind.


I attracted the notice of Sir Henry Richards very early in a rather curious fashion. I was engaged as a junior in a particular appeal for the appellant. There were several senior Advocates like Dr. Sapru, Sir Sunder Lal and Mr. O'Conor already appearing in the case. When the case was called on before the Chief Justice unfortunately all the senior counsel were engaged in other Courts and in as much as my instructions were definite that I was to assist my seniors but not to argue the case myself, I stood up and prayed for an adjournment. The Chief Justice looked at the youthful pleader before him and granted my prayer but with a smiling countenance he looked at me and said, "What are you here for? Why don't you argue the case? Are you here for ornament's sake?" I was greatly touched and told him that I was only too ready to argue the case myself but my instructions were precisely to the contrary. I, thereafter, made it a rule of my life never to make a motion for adjournment of any case on the ground of the engagement of my seniors elsewhere.

Service Judges were usually drawn from the Indian Civil Service (Judicial Branch) and as in those days 50 years ago the Indian Civil Service was mostly manned by British people, our Service Judges were mostly all British people.

In the first ten years of my practice in the Allahabad High Court, we had several Service Judges of learning and judicial experience. Some of them I remember vividly - Sir William Tudball, Sir Edward Maynard Des Chamier, Theodore Caro Piggott, Benjamin Lindsay, Sir Louis Stuart, James Allsop and Sir Edward Bennet. Each one was anxious to do justice between the parties but as was to be expected from people who had devoted the whole of their lives to a judicial career, right from the start, all of them had personalities and characteristics of their own and the access to their hearts, minds and brains was to be found in different ways.


Speaking for myself I had that good fortune because in the course of time I had myself developed the habit of concluding my arguments as quickly as possible and only emphasizing the real points in the case. One experience of mine was very curious arid amusing. In a second appeal I was appearing for the respondent opposing my dear friend Pearey Lal Bannerji, who was appearing for the appellant. The case came on the daily list before Justice Stuart one morning and it so happened that owing to pressure of other work - both in Court on the day's list and outside - I could not look into this particular second appeal of mine. What to say of study, I had not even opened the brief and did not know at all what the case was about and what exactly was the point of law raised therein.

That morning on reaching the High Court while I was mounting the stairs I came across my friend P. L. B. and I told him that I had had no time to look into this case and asked him whether there was anything in it. He smiled broadly and waved his hand indicating that there was not much in the appeal. I took the hint and ceased to worry about the case. As the different Courts commenced to work, I began to walk up and down the corridor looking after one or two cases of mine which were proceeding in these Courts. In about half an hour came my client, the respondent in the second appeal, running to me and requested me to proceed to Justice Stuart's Court at once because he said, "The case has been called and Pearey Babu has started his arguments. So, do please come. I told him "not to be impatient. I will come a little later," but he was not to be pacified and he said, "Dr. Sahab, Dr. Sahab, do please come straight off, just show your face and come away if you like."

I was rather amused by the way in which he was phrasing his request and I just followed him. When we reached Justice Stuart's court-room, I lifted the curtain and put one foot inside the room and I noticed that P. L. B. was going on with his arguments. Stuart, J. looked at me from the Bench and, very likely imagining that I had come into his Court for this particular case from some other Court leaving my case there, he, believe it or not, just beckoned to me from the Bench to go away. I took the hint and left the Court. I think P. L. B. sat down afterwards in a few minutes.

That is the way in which Stuart, J. used to polish off many cases a day in his Court, day after day. This particular method deserves attention because we are all troubled these days with the heavy arrears in our Court.

There is one particular feature in the law practice in the High Court. High Court Judges remain on the Bench for long periods, at least for ten years and more, and almost a family atmosphere prevails between the Bench and the Bar in the High Court. The Judges and practising lawyers come to know each other very well and cases are argued in an atmosphere of understanding and cordiality and almost light-heartedness and the process of argument before them often becomes a very simple and untiring affair. I sometimes used to make light-hearted, you may say almost impertinent, remarks, but the Judges were kind and they enjoyed the fun themselves.

After a long experience I have come to the conclusion that the best process of conducting an argument and avoiding scenes in Court was to give a ready and precise answer to every question of the Judge. Give your answer first and then add anything afterwards. I remember vividly a scene in the Court of Mr. Justice Tudball. He was hearing a second appeal. Dr. Sapru was the senior counsel in the case. He was elsewhere. He had handed over the brief to me and asked me to sit in Court and listen to the arguments of his colleague. That argument was proceeding but my friend did not appear to be making much ado. He stressed some points on which the learned Judge asked a question. Answer to that question was not to the liking or in favour of my friend, the Advocate. So, instead of giving the answer first and trying to explain it away afterwards, he would just begin by saying "But My Lord". Tudball, J. repeated the question and then again it came, "But My Lord". This happened three or four times\; whereupon Tudball, J. lost his temper and shouted something very rude.

I was myself, though young in age, rather distressed and hurt by his discourteous demeanour and my head began to wave almost involuntarily in indication of my disapproval of the Judge's behaviour. Tudball, J. noticed it and he suddenly turned round and in a loud voice asked me, "Do you understand him?" And I answered, "Yes, my Lord." "What does he mean?" "What he obviously means is that what your Lordship is saying is correct but he wants to give an explanation of the situation." "Why does he not say so?" To which I said, "Ask him. "


I had once a similar experience myself. My client had been sentenced to three years' imprisonment. I thought I had, on the judgment of the Sessions Judge himself, a strong case, but Mr. Justice Uma Shanker Bajpai, before whom the case was posted for disposal, thought otherwise, took a very serious view of the matter and thought that not only my client was guilty but he deserved a much more severe punishment. So, in spite of my indirect hint that in the circumstances he might as well dismiss the appeal, he issued a notice for enhancement remarking, "Dr. Katju, blood is calling for vengeance." These enhancement notices in criminal cases are always heard by a Bench of two Judges. My case was posted before a Bench consisting of Sir Arthur Trevor Harries and Mr. Justice Rachpal Singh. In a short time they formed the opinion that the conviction was wrong and expressed a little surprise at the issue of the enhancement notice. After hearing the Government Advocate, the appeal was allowed and the accused was acquitted.

In view of such possibilities, I have always held the view that interests of justice demand that in the High Court every case, big or small, civil or criminal, should be heard and disposed of by a Bench of two or more Judges. Sometimes it becomes very difficult to bring round a single Judge to the correct point of view.

After 1914, in the next 30 years there were many Judges of great eminence. One who made a name for himself for his great legal talent and learning was Sir Shah Mohammad Sulaiman. He attained a fame for learning almost equal to that of Justice Mahmood. Justice Sulaiman was appointed when he was only 33 years of age but his legal erudition was a great recommendation in his case. He and his brother Judge Justice Young created an all-India record by their quick disposal of the famous Meerut Conspiracy case.

That case involved 18 accused - three Britishers and 15 other Indian politicians members of the Communist party, accused of Criminal conspiracy for the overthrow of the Indian Government. The case had taken 15 months in commitment proceedings before a magistrate and took full two years of day-to-day hearing in the Sessions Court. The record in its bulk was simply awe-inspiring. The learned Sessions Judge took over six months in preparing his judgment, which covered nearly 800 foolscap pages. The Government had engaged a special counsel, Mr. Kemp, a Barrister from Bombay, to conduct the case before the Sessions Judge. He appeared in the High Court too, and he thought that the hearing of the appeal in the High Court would take at least three months, if not more. I with several colleagues was appearing for the appellants. We concluded our arguments in five days. Mr. Kemp in reply took 2 days and on the 8th day Justice Sulaiman delivered his judgment in Court, which he dictated for about six hours and thus the hearing of the appeal was finished altogether in 8 days - a marvellous record.

Editor's note: The following is reproduced from

The judgement, which is contained in six hundred and seventy-six foolscap printed pages is an illuminating document, at the end it contains the following admission from Mr. Justice Yorke:

"As to the progress made in this conspiracy its main achievements have been the establishment of Workers and Peasant Parties in Bengal, Bombay and Punjab and the U.P., but perhaps of deeper gravity was the hold that the members of the Bombay Party acquired over the workers in the textile industry in Bombay as shown by the extent of the control which they exercised during the strike of 1928 and the success they were achieving in pushing forward a thoroughly revolutionary policy in the Girni Kamgar Union after the strike carne to an end."

"The fact that the revolution was not expected actually to come to pass for some years seems to me to be no defence whatever. No one expects to bring about a revolution in a day. It is in the light of all the above facts that I have endeavoured to assess the relative guilt of the different in this case and to ' 'make the punishment to fit the crime."

"Convicting these twenty-seven accused as stated in each of the individual chapters I sentence them as follows Muzafiar Ahmad, accused, transportation for life.

Dange, Spratt, Ghate, Joglekar and Nimbkar accused, each to transportation [Editor's note: ‘transportation' means exile to a remote place, possibly Andaman and Nicobar islands] for a period of 12 (twelve) years.

Bradley, Mirajkar and Usrnani accused, each to transportation for a period of 10 (ten) years.

Soban Singh Josh, Majid and Goswami accused, each to transportation for a period of 7 (seven) years.

Ajodhya Prasad, Adhikari, P.C. Joshi and Desai accused, each to transportation for a period of 5 (five) years.

Chakravarty, Basak, Hutchinson, Mittra, Jhabwala, and Sehgal accused, each to 4 (four) years Rigorous Imprisonment.

Shamsul Huda, Alve, Kasle, Gauri, Shankar and Kadam accused, eacb to 3 (three) years Rigorous Imprisonment."

On appeal, in July 1933, the sentences were reduced. Ahmed, Dange and Usmani receiving 3 years Rigorous Imprisonment, Spratt 2 years, nine others originally receiving 7-12 years had their sentences reduced to 1 year or less. 5 others were released but with convictions upheld. The remaining 8 were acquitted, after spending nearly four years in prison.

Mr. Justice Sulaiman was afterwards appointed a Judge of the Federal Court at New Delhi. His premature early death deprived India of the services of a Judge of great erudition and merits. Four of the Judges of the Allahabad High Court went to other States as Chief Justices, Mr. Justice Chamier as Chief Justice of the Bihar High Court at Patna, Mr. Justice Young of the Punjab High Court at Lahore, and Mr. Justice Harries, who served as Chief Justice in three Courts, the last one being the Calcutta High Court. The fourth Mr. Justice Kailashnath Wanchoo functioned later as Chief Justice of Rajasthan and is now a Judge of the Supreme Court of India.

The first Indian as the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court was Sir Shah Mohammad Sulaiman. After him came several others - Mr. Justice Iqbal Ahmad, Mr. Justice Kamala Kant Verma and Mr. Justice B. Malik.


The Vakil's section of the Allahabad High Court Bar, right from the establishment of the High Court in 1866, occupied a most distinguished place in the Bar of India. At that time there were only four High Courts in India - Calcutta, Bombay, Madras and Allahabad. In the three High Courts in the Presidency towns, namely, Calcutta, Bombay and Madras, there were original sides attached to the High Court, with the result that the number of Judges on the Bench was fairly large. There was plenty of publicity in these three Presidency towns and their High Court Bars became famous throughout India for their legal talents and forensic skill.

Allahabad was situated very much in the interior and there never was any original side, and the Press being a very small one there was not much publicity about judicial proceedings in the High Court. In spite of all these shortcomings, the Vakil Bar enjoyed an enviable reputation for its enormous learning and wonderful forensic ability. The Civil work was almost concentrated among the Vakils. There were one or two British barristers, who also used to handle civil cases. Among the leaders of the Vakil Bar were Munshi Hanuman Prasad, Munshi Kali Prasad, Pandit Ajodhya Nath and Pandit Bishambhar Nath, Pandit Sunder Lal and Moti Lal, Jogendra Nath Chaudhary and Durga Charan Banerji, Satish Chandra Banerji and Tej Bahadur Sapru, Pearey Lal Banerji and many others.

One other rather curious feature of the Allahabad Vakil Bar was that the names of two Vakils began to be linked together in public discussions of those times and became almost household words in the legal world of Uttar Pradesh, Pandit Ajodhya Nath and Pandit Bishambhar Nath, Pandit Sunder Lal and Pandit Moti Lal, Dr. Satish Chandra Bannerji and Dr. Tej Bahadur Sapru. Youngest were Pearey Lal Bannerji and myself (Kailash Nath Katju). These couples seldom appeared with each other on the same side. They continuously opposed each other not only in the High Court but also in the district courts throughout Uttar Pradesh. Apart from their high standards of legal learning and advocacy, many of these eminent people were not only jurists but also leaders of public life in Allahabad as well as outside in the Province.

Many enjoyed an all-India reputation. Pandit Sunder Lal was a great educationist. For years and years he worked in the Allahabad University and became its Vice-Chancellor. He had a great hand in the organization of the Benares Hindu University. No doubt the Benares Hindu University owes its foundation to the imagination, the drive, the energy, and the great personality of Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya. It was he who went about India and propagated widely and enthusiastically his scheme for establishing this University in Benares, and raised crores of rupees for the University, but its organization was entirely due to Pandit Sunder LaL Pandit Sunder Lal's brother Pandit Baldeo Ram, who was also a lawyer, used to take great interest in education and has left behind him a great memorial in the shape of City Anglo-Vernacular College, Allahabad. Babu Durga Charan Bannerji was the founder and the builder of the Anglo-Bengali College.

To Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, the Allahabad City and Uttar Pradesh owe a magnificent hostel in Allahabad just in front of the Muir Central College which, though originally named by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya himself as MacDonnell Hindu Boarding House, is now known as Madan Mohan Malviya Hostel.

I have the honour of being one of the first old members (Boys) of this hostel. It was built while I was residing in a bungalow in the hostel campus and when the new hostel became ready for occupation by the students, Pandit Malviya came one fine morning and asked the boys to shift into the new rooms and select one according to their own choice. We, 72 students, were thus the first residents of, call them now, 'old boys', of this hostel. The Allahabad High Court Vakils were the leaders in the political sphere also. They were mostly Congressmen. Pandit Ajodhya Nath was one of the founders of the Indian National Congress, and we have produced many Presidents of the Congress from the Allahabad Vakil Bar, men like Pandit Moti Lal and Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya. Jawaharlal Nehru started his career as a lawyer in Allahabad. He retired from the Bar in answer to the call of the Nation as sounded by Gandhi Ji somewhere about 1918.

Munshi Ishwar Saran was another eminent lawyer of Allahabad. He left us years ago but has left a, permanent memorial, in Ishwar Saran Nagar, a great example of his devotion to the cause of Harijan brethren in Uttar Pradesh.

Mr. Jogendra Nath Chaudhary and Mr. Pearey Lal Bannerji had outwardly no interest other than their devotion to the law. Sri Jogendra Nath Chaudhary was one of the most eloquent and persuasive advocates that Allahabad has produced and Pearey Lal Bannerji was famous for his masterly preparation and presentation of his cases before the Court.

As I have already observed, many of our Vakils were honoured by the High Court by the inclusion of their names in the roll of advocates.

As for the right of appearance in the High Court by members of the legal profession, only those who were called to the Bar in Great Britain by the Inns of Courts or who had passed the Vakils' examination held by the High Court or had obtained the degrees of Bachelor of Law were entitled to appear in the High Court. Two registers were maintained, one of Advocates and the other of Vakils. The Advocates were considered seniors. Barristers were enrolled in the Advocates' Register and also those Vakils on whom the status of an Advocate had been conferred by the High Court, and none others.

I think amongst the Vakils who were elevated to the rank of an Advocate by the High Court, the most prominent were in the beginning Pandit Sunder Lal, Pandit Moti Lal, Jogendra Nath Chaudhary and one or two more. With the establishment of the High Court, many British Barristers came over to the N. W. P. (North-Western Provinces), as it was then called, for practice at the Bar. Apart from their legal talent and forensic ability, the fact that they were the members of the ruling community, lent them great position and prestige in the public eye. All important criminal cases are tried before Sessions Court and the Sessions Judges were, in those days, appointed from the members of the Indian Civil Service (Judicial Branch) and almost invariably used to be British people.

The prevalent notion was that Indian Vakils and pleaders did not receive much respect from these British Sessions Judges and they were more courteous and more receptive to the arguments of British Barristers, who were members of their own community. That was the feeling in the High Court also. Therefore, in the beginning all criminal practice was mostly confined to British Barristers in the High Court and in the trial courts in the districts. There were some barristers who, by their learning and ability had attained eminence even on the Civil side and they had a large practice but, speaking generally, Civil litigation was mostly concentrated in the hands of Indian lawyers. The Advocates Register continued in the High Court for many years and- I think a Doctor of Law also became entitled to enrolment as an Advocate in his own right.

Now the distinction between an Advocate and a Vakil does not exist.


sir i want know more aabout him

Has anyone heard of Rao Girdhari Lal Chowdhary who studied law at St John's, Cambridge 1910 to 1913. A friend of mine is trying to find out what happened to him following graduation.

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