Honourable Mr. Hashmatrai Khubchand Chainani was the Chief Justice of Bombay High Court from the period of 1958 to 1965. Mr. HK Chainani was born into a Sindhi Family 29 February 1904 in British India. He completed his primary education from Hyderabad then went to Karachi for further studies. He studied in D J Sindh College of Karachi. Mr. Chainani completed his BA in B.A. in Natural Science Tripos from Magdalene College, Cambridge, England in 1925. Mr. Chainani returned to India in 1927 after passing the Indian Civil Services and was appointed Assistant Collector at Sholapur at first and then at Nasik, Khandesh and Poona.
Mr. H.K. Chainani was transferred to the Judicial Department from where he started his judicial career as an Assistant Judge in Poona in 1933 and then after, he was promoted as District and Sessions Judge at Sholapur. In 1935, Mr. Chainani was appointed Secretary to the Bombay Legislative Council and Assistant Legal Remembrancer. In 1944, he acted as the Joint Secretary to the Government of Bombay, Home Department. Later on, he was transferred as Deputy Secretary to the Government of India, Home Department. In the same year, January, Mr. Chainani, his lordship, held the post of Revenue Commissioner at Central Division. Mr. Chainani was appointed as the Puisne Judge of the Bombay High Court on August 28, in the year 1948 and later on, his lordship was appointed as the Chief Justice of Bombay High Court in the year 1958 after Justice M C Chagla. HK Chainani was the third judge after independence to hold this position. He also served as the State of Maharashtra’s acting governor and the honorary secretary of the Environmental Action Group of Bombay in 1962. His lordship believed in efficiency of courts and integrity. He believed that no other branch of government is more crucial to preserving the rights and liberties of the populace.
In his lifetime, the most famous case Honourable Chief Justice presided over was “K. M. Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra” later this case was passed to a division Bench of the said High Court, consisting of judges-Shelat and Naik, JJ. Both of them heard the case and at last the case moved to the Supreme Court. This case is one of the landmark cases in the Indian Judiciary history. This was also the last case where jury trial was held, after this case the jury system was demolished by the Government of India. Mr. Chainanai was made to look into this case to investigate the truthfulness of the attempt to stop Nanavati from receiving the warrant. K Nanavati was arrested for shooting down businessman Prem Ahuja who was having an affair with Nanavati’s wife Sylvia. This case highlighted the concept of ‘grave and sudden provocation’. This case also questioned pardoning powers of the governor. After viewing the facts, the high court held that the case comes under murder only not culpable homicide amounting to murder. The Supreme Court held the same and it also held that the Governor’s pardoning authority and the Special Leave Petition cannot coexist. Still Nanavati was finally pardoned by the new governor of Maharashtra ‘Vijayalakshmi Pandit’ and sister of Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. The jury also found Nanavati to be not guilty of murder by the Supreme Court. He later he moved to Ontario, Canada to stay away from the media coverage.
Another one of case heard by Honourable Chief Justice was of “Abdul Sakur Dadamiya vs Maruti Bali Kokate on 8 March, 1961”. In these cases, the Bombay Revenue Tribunal was of the position that the holding of a deceased Muslim will be treated as one unit for the purposes of the proviso to Sub-section (I) of Section 38E of the Hyderabad Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, unless it is divided by metes and bounds and the shares of his heirs in it are separated. This viewpoint’s accuracy was being challenged in front of the bench. Here in the case, Dadamiya, owner of the disputed land in this case died leaving behind his kids (includes 2 petitioners, another son and 6 daughters) and 2 wives. The opponents here in this case are tenants of the land who were declared owners of the land after issue of notification of Sub-section (I) of Section 38E of the given provision which is transfer of ownership to tenants for the protection of tenants. The petitioners argued that they and the other heirs were the owners of their respective share of land not the tenants. These arguments by the petitioners were not accepted by the Revenue Tribunal as in another case relating to land dispute, the Special Bench which had held that all of the lands left by a deceased Mahomedan should be treated as one unit for the purposes of the proviso to Sub-section (1) of Section 38E if those lands had not been divided by metes and bounds by his heirs. The view by Revenue Tribunal at the end was proven correct.
The Honourable Mr. Chainani is known to perform his high judicial duties with notable skill, sobriety, and impartiality for almost ten years of service. His Lordship was admired and appreciated for how he handled complex cases that were brought before him. He was also respected for his intense desire to administer flawless justice without any fear of favour. He would perfectly justify the anticipation that he would uphold the highest and best traditions of his elevated position. Mr. H.K. Chainani was the one who first time allowed the citizens of India to enjoy the straggling grounds of Raj Bhavan during his tenure as Acting Governor. He opened the gates of Raj Bhavan by establishing the practice of “at home” for citizens. This practice is still followed today.
His lordship passed away on 28th November in the year 1965 but he is still very much fondly remembered by the people. Chief Justice H.K. Chainani would strongly speak on the issues related to education and human rights. His lordship would worked tirelessly to strengthen the community’s spiritual and metaphysical foundation. Moving to Mumbai from Sindh, starting over after the partition, and reaching such heights of accomplishment speaks much about his bravery, tenacity, and determination. Through his life and work, he serves as an inspiration and visionary figure for social and political justice and serves as a role model for younger generations. In his remembrance, a road in Mumbai is named after him as “Chief Justice Chainani Marg”.
- Aleem Shaikh, Mumbai: Road in name of Chief Justice H.K.Chainani successfully commemorated, HELLO MUMBAI NEWS (March 25, 2021), https://www.hellomumbainews.com/current-news/mumbai-road-in-name-of-chief-justice-h-k-chainani-successfully-commemorated/
- Official website of High Court of Bombay, https://bombayhighcourt.nic.in/cjshow.php?bhcpar=amdldGlkPTEzJnBhZ2Vubz0x
- Bachi Karkaria, Nanavati case marked many firsts – trial by media & tussle between judiciary and executive, THE PRINT, (27 April, 2019 10:36 am), https://theprint.in/opinion/nanavati-case-marked-many-firsts-trial-by-media-tussle-between-judiciary-and-executive/227964/
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