Tribute to a towering personality

Ravi Rohmetra
Mehr Chand Mahajan was born in a small village called Tika Nagrota in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh and rose to the Chief Justice of India,the highest honour the country could offer. Rejected at birth on astrological grounds, he was brought up in a Rajput peasant family up to the age of seven.Though brought home by his parents when he was seven years old,his father saw his face for the first time when he was twelve. Under the guidance of astrologers and learned pandits after due process of propitiating the gods.
After completing middle school in 1905, Mehr Chand moved to Lahore for further studies and graduated from Government college, Lahore,in 1910.He opted for an Chemistry and was taken in as student demonstrator but, midway during the session, he was prevailed upon to switch to Law.His father,Lala Brij Lal,a prominent advocate had established an impressive legal practice at Dharamsala with a well stocked library and Mehr Chand was his only son. He was keen that Mehr follow his profession where he could help and steer him to a good start in his career. Thus,in 1912,this young man,armed with his LL.B degree, started practice at Dharamsala under his father’s guidance.
Mehr Chand took to his profession with almost fanatical zeal.As a young lawyer,he would study the briefs. With meticulous precision,talk to the clients to establish the true facts,inspect the court records,consider in depth the legal issues involved and prepare his plan of action and strategy in detail. He soon moved from Dharamsala to the district courts of Gurdaspur, and later he shifted to Lahore in 1918.Here he got opportunities for the display of his forensic abilities,and success following success took him to the highest rung of the ladder. Not only was he a keen practicing lawyer,he was just as interested in its teaching. From 1922 he taught as a part-time lecturer at Law College, Lahore for nine years.
Member of the Radcliffe Commission
He became a member of The Radcliffe commission for demarcating the boundaries between India and Pakistan as a result of the partition.Though he was not inclined to join as he felt the commission was a farce since the decisions would be taken by the viceroy himself,he was finally persuaded to accept the invitation. His inclusion as a member of the Boundary commission is a testimony to the government’s faith in his unbiased judicial approach and sagacity and public confidence in his fairness.
Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir
The biggest challenge and achievement of Mr Mahajan’s career was during the few months that he was the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir from October 15, 1947 to March 1948. Though a pre-eminent judge and jurist, Mr Mahajan was an administrator of exceptional merit. During the communal frenzy that engulfed the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir he maintained law and order with an extremely inadequate police force; he tried to restore some degree of confidence among the Hindu population of the state when their relatives and friends were being butchered and massacred by Pakistani soldiers masquerading as border tribesmen and by local Muslims armed by Pakistan, and he tried to help in the evacuation of Muslims wishing to go to Pakistan. His problem was that he did not have enough men in the state police force nor troops in the state’s Dogra contingent to effectively handle the law and order situation. With the promised support from India not forthcoming, he did the best that could be done within his very limited and meager resources.
Judge of the supreme court
A month later, he was asked by chief justice Kania if he would like to be considered for the federal court since there was an urgent need for at least two more judges on the Bench. Mr Mahajan agreed, though he knew that he was likely to be appointed chief justice of the East Punjab High Court. In the Federal court, Pandit Nehru would have preferred Dewan Ram Lal but the Chief Justice of India and Sardar Patel were of a different view and eventually Mr Mahajan was appointed.
Chief justice of India
In October 1951 Chief Justice Kania suddenly had a heart attack which proved fatal.The country lost its first chief justice at the comparatively young age of about 55. Mr Justice Patanjali Shastri succeeded him.On his retirement Mr. Mahajan took over as the Chief Justice of India on 4th January 1954. He took bench of the Supreme Court to Kashmir, as desired by the home Ministry, to decide all cases transferred from the state privy council to the supreme court and in just about a fortnight had cleared all pending cases. During his short tenure as Chief justice of India, he had tried, but without success, to introduce an all India Bar Judicial cadre of services, an all India cadre of High Court Judges and An All India Bar.
Reorganizing of D.A.V institutions
After his retirement, the Managing committee of the D.A.V college Trust approached him to interest himself in its affairs. Mr. Mahajan had been associated with the D.A.V College Trust and Managing committee for many years. In 1919 soon after practice at Lahore he was elected as secretary of its Managing committee and in due course became General secretary and vice-President. In 1936, he became President of the Managing committee. He resigned as President on his elevation to the High court but continued to be a member of the managing committee and of most of its important sub-committees.
It is a matter of pride and joy for the Jammuties honoring Late Justice Mehar Chand Mahajan. We Jammuites thank to Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Union Minister of State in PMO Office Dr Jitendra Singh and Union Minister of State for Communication Manoj Sinha for their sincere efforts to release postal stamp in memory of Justice Mehr Chand Mahajan at India International Centre New Delhi on 31st of December 2017 as New Year Gift.
It is further stated that though a platform has been constructed as justice Mehr Chand Mahajan Road (high court road) Janipur, Jammu but statue of the dignitary is yet to be installed. The statue of Mehr Chand Mahajan needs to be installed on the platform immediately for fulfilling the aspirations of the Jammuities.


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