BIOGRAPHY OF CHIEF JUSTICE MIRZA HAMEEDULLAH BEG

Assumed Office- 29th of January, 1977

Retired on- 21st of February, 1978

Education-

  • Bachelors of Arts- Cambridge University
  • Masters of Arts- Cambridge University

Previously

  • Enrolment (1941)
  • Judge of Allahabad High Court (1963)
  • Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court (1971)
  • Judge of Supreme Court (1971)
  • Chief Justice of Supreme Court (1977)

Justice Mirza Hameedullah Beg registered at the Allahabad High Court in February 1941 and began representing clients there in 1942. In 1949, he had a busy career as a Federal Court of India counsel. He served as permanent counsel for the UP Sunni Central Wakf Board and Allahabad University. On June 11th, 1963, Beg J was appointed to the Allahabad High Court as a judge.

Beg J was appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court on December 10, 1971, and as Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court in 1971. On January 29th, 1977, he succeeded Justice Ajit Nath Ray as the 15th Chief Justice of India. He held the position for 13 months before stepping down on February 21st, 1978.

Beg J authored 194 decisions during his seven-year tenure on the Supreme Court and participated in 562 benches.

Important Judgement

The majority opinion of A.N. Ray, M.H. Beg, Y.V. Chandrachud, and P.N. Bhagwati JJ in the case known as the habeas corpus case, ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla (1976)[1], held that a High Court could not enforce a writ of habeas corpus during a state of emergency. According to Beg J, a person’s right to enforce personal freedom would be suspended during an emergency. Beg J replaced H.R. Khanna J as Chief Justice a few months after the judgement.

The nine-judge panel in Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978)[2], which considered the application of Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution, was headed over by Beg J. He wrote the ruling, which stated that it was against Article 21 to seize a passport without following the legal process. He added that it was clear that Article 21 served as a barrier against executive overreach.

He also served as a judge in a number of other significant constitutional cases, such as Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (1973)[3], in which the Supreme Court ruled that Parliament lacks the authority to change the Constitution’s fundamental design. In Kesavananda Bharati, Beg J provided a minority opinion and upheld the validity of the 24th, 25th, and 29th amendments by citing the expansive authority afforded to the legislature by Article 368 as well as the “test of consequences.”

Certain media companies contested the Import Control Order, 1955’s restrictions on the import of newsprint in Bennett Coleman v. Union of India (1972)[4]. Beg J stressed the value of press freedom and ruled that any limitations on basic rights must pass the “reasonableness” standard.


[1] 1976 AIR 1207, 1976 SCR 172 (https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1735815/)

[2] 1978 AIR 597, 1978 SCR (2) 621 (https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1766147/)

[3] 1973 4 SCC 225; AIR 1973 SC 1461 (https://indiankanoon.org/doc/257876/)

[4] 1973 AIR 106, 1973 SCR (2) 757 https://indiankanoon.org/doc/125596/

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