“I heard that a man might be his own lawyer, but you can’t be your own judge.”

                                                                                 -Margaret Deland

The world remembers those who occupy the first position in any sphere of life. Only the best or worst ones are remembered, rest are forgotten. This is the punishment one gets for being mediocre. An exception to this rule is that the one who comes first just because he was there will also be remembered. So as far as the first prime minister, president or woman ips officer, the first man to  land to space is concerned we know a little more than their names and a little less than their entire life journey. So I am also going to deal with one of the first in the legal field : first chief justice of India Hiralal Jeiksundas Kania.


The glory of having the title of first chief justice of independent India is vested with him till the end of times. Lets see his journey from being a law student to one of the most prestigious positions in india.


birth3.november.1890Navsari, British India.(Gujrat nowadays.)
FamilyGrandfather- a revenue officer.Father -jekisundas kania – a sanskrit professor and then the principal of Samaldas college.The elder brother- a barrister .
educationAfter completing his schooling he tookBA from Samaldas College in 1910.LLB from government law college, Bombay in 1912.LLM from government law college in 1913.
Enrollment as an advocateHe began his practice as an advocate in 1915 at Bombay high court.
Spouse He was married after enrolling with Shrimati Kusum Mehta, daughter of Sir Chunilal mehta.
Issues from wedlockRukmini shah .


1915He joined practice in 1915 in Bombay high court.
1930He also served as acting editor of Indian  law reports.He served for a short period of time as an acting judge of Bombay high court in 1930.
1931Then in 1931 he was appointed as an additional judge in bombay high court till March 1933.
1933After resuming his practice as an advocate for 3 months till June, he was promoted to associate judge.


Justice Kania was able to secure a place in the 1943 birthday honors list. So at that time the senior associate judges of the high court were eligible to be elevated to the position of chief justice of India, held by Sir John Beaumont at that time. 

Sir Beaumont had a biased attitude towards Indians, so rather than giving the seat to justice Kania , who deserved it, it was passed to sir john stone. Sir John although didn’t like the treatment justice kania had to face but he still accepted the nomination made by sir beaumont.

Justice Kania served as an acting chief justice from may-september1944 and from june-october 1945.

Then he was promoted to associate judge of the Federal court of india.

After the retirement of Sir Patrick spens on 14. August.1947, justice kania succeeded him as the chief justice.

After the independence of India , the supreme court was established on 28.january. 1950(previously known as Federal court.) he was appointed as the first chief justice of India on the very same day. He read the oath to the first president of India, Dr. Rajendra prasad.


                             AK GOPALAN V. STATE OF MADRAS

                                               1950 SCR 88

In this the validity of the Preventive Detention Act 1950 was upheld. Sec 14 of this act was held unconstitutional. The supreme court held that procedure established by law is not synonymous with due process of law. This judgment was passed by 5:1 majority, and chief justice hiralal kania was part of the majority.


                                            UMARBHAI & CO.                                                                                                                                          

                                       1950 SCR 335

Kania, the chief justice, gave a detailed judgment discussing the definition of 3 terms in income tax Act that is separate unit, profit and income. He also mentioned if a man is a manufacturer, a trader and even an exporter it is not correct to say that unless all the three activities take place in an Indian state only then he is entitled to the benefits of the Act because in other cases his place of business is not in india.

       DELHI LAWS ACT, 1912   OR   IN RE V. PART ‘C’ STATES  

                                                LAWS ACT 

                                                1951 SCR 74

Kania, chief justice formed a part of minority in this judgment and declared whether sovereign or subordinate, the legislative authority can delegate the power if it stand passed on this 3-level test:

  1. The power delegated must be within the scope of the legislative power of the body.
  2. The delegation should not be negated by the instrument by which such a legislative body is established.
  3. It doesn’t establish another legislative body to discharge the same functions, if the Act prohibited such establishment.

In a 7 judge bench the judgment came with a 5:2 majority  held that separation of power was not a part of the Indian constitution. Parliament cant create another parallel authority. A limit on delegation of power is fixed. The legislature cant delegate the essential functions. Only ancillary functions can be delegated.


He died on 6.november.1951 at New Delhi, India at the age of 61. He died while serving in his office  of a sudden heart attack.


During his life he gave numerous judgments but only the ones that left a mark on the history of India are mentioned above. A man is known by the work he did during his life. So whenever at any point of time these same matters of law arise, so will the name of kania, chief justice. He joined the profession in 1915 and till 1951 was a part of this profession. He dedicated around 36 years of his life to the legal field. So it can be rightly said about kania, chief justice that


                                                                                                 – Enid bagnold.

“This article is written by Daman preet kaur, pursuing law from punjabi university , patiala, currently in the final year of 3 year law degree.”


Image Source: Legal News

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