Mohammad Hidayatullah
6th Vice President of India
In office
31 August 1979 – 30 August 1984
PresidentNeelam Sanjiva Reddy
Zail Singh
Preceded byB. D. Jatti
Succeeded byRamaswamy Venkataraman
President of India
In office
20 July 1969 – 24 August 1969
Prime MinisterIndira Gandhi
Preceded byVarahagiri Venkata Giri
Succeeded byVarahagiri Venkata Giri
In office
6 October 1982 – 31 October 1982
Prime MinisterIndira Gandhi
Preceded byZail Singh
Succeeded byZail Singh
In office
25 July 1983 – 25 July 1983
Prime MinisterIndira Gandhi
Preceded byZail Singh
Succeeded byZail Singh
In office
25 July 1984 – 25 July 1984
Prime MinisterIndira Gandhi
Preceded byZail Singh
Succeeded byZail Singh
11th Chief Justice of India
In office
25 February 1968 – 16 December 1970
Appointed byZakir Husain
Preceded byKailas Nath Wanchoo
Succeeded byJayantilal Chhotalal Shah
Personal details
Born(1905-12-17)17 December 1905
Lucknow, United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, British India
(present-day Uttar Pradesh, India)
Died18 September 1992(1992-09-18) (aged 86)
Bombay, Maharashtra, India
(present-day Mumbai)
Political partyIndependent
SpousePushpa Shah
Alma materNagpur University
Trinity College, Cambridge
Lincoln's Inn
  • Lawyer
  • politician
  • academician

Mohammad Hidayatullah OBE (pronunciation; 17 December 1905 – 18 September 1992) was the 11th Chief Justice of India serving from 25 February 1968 to 16 December 1970, and the sixth vice president of India, serving from 31 August 1979 to 30 August 1984. He had also served as the acting president of India from 20 July 1969 to 24 August 1969 and from 6 October 1982 to 31 October 1982 and from 25 July 1983 to 25 July 1983 and from 25 July 1984 to 25 July 1984.[1] He is regarded as an eminent jurist, scholar, educationist, author and linguist.[2][3]

Early life and education

Hidayatullah was born in 1905 in the well-known family of Khan Bahadur Hafiz Mohammed Wilayatullah. His grand father Munshi Kudartullah was advocate in Varanasi.[4][5] His father was a poet of all-India repute who wrote poems in Urdu and probably it must have been from him that Justice Hidayatullah got his love for language and literature. Wilayatullah was Gold medallist of Aligarh Muslim University in 1897 - besting famous mathematician Sir Ziauddin Ahmad, a favourite of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. Wilayatullah served in ICS until 1928 and as a member of the Central Legislative Assembly from 1929 to 1933. Hidaytullah's elder brothers Mohammed Ikramullah (ICS, later Foreign Secretary, Pakistan) and Ahmedullah (ICS, retired as Chairman, Tariff Board) were scholars as well as sportsmen. He on the other hand excelled in Urdu poetry.[6][7]

After completing primary education at the Government High School of Raipur in 1922, Hidayatullah attended Morris College in Nagpur, where he was nominated as the Phillip's Scholar in 1926. When he graduated in 1926, he was awarded the Malak Gold Medal. Following the trend of Indians studying British law abroad, Hidayatullah attended Trinity College at the University of Cambridge from 1927 to 1930 and obtained B.A. and M.A. Degrees from there. Here he secured the 2nd order of merit and was awarded a gold medal for his performance in 1930. He was called to the Bar from Lincoln's Inn when he was just 25 years old. He was awarded LL.D. (Honoris Causa) from University of the Philippines and D. Litt. (Honoris Causa) from University of Bhopal (now Barkatullah University) and University of Kakatiya. While at Cambridge, Hidayatullah was elected and served as the President of the Indian Majlis in 1929. Also while here, he pursued English and Law Tripos from the renowned Lincoln's Inn. In addition he secured a place of Barrister-at-Law in 1930.[2][8]


President Dr. Zakir Husain at the swearing in ceremony of Justice M. Hidayatullah, at Rashtrapati Bhavan

After graduation, Hidayatullah returned to India and enrolled as an advocate of the High Court of Central Provinces and Berar at Nagpur on 19 July 1930. He also taught Jurisprudence and Mahomedan Law in the University College of Law at Nagpur and was also the Extension Lecturer in English literature. On 12 December 1942, he was appointed Government Pleader in the High Court at Nagpur. On 2 August 1943, he became the Advocate General of Central Provinces and Berar (now Madhya Pradesh) and continued to hold the said post till he was appointed as an Additional Judge of that High Court in 1946. He had the distinction of being the youngest Advocate General of an Indian state, Madhya Pradesh.[2][9]

On 24 June 1946, Hidayatullah was appointed as Additional Judge of that High Court of Central Provinces and Berar and on 13 September 1946 he was appointed as permanent judge of said High Court where he served until being elevated to Chief Justice of the Nagpur High Court in 1954 on 3 December 1954, being the youngest Chief Justice of a High Court. In November 1956, he was then appointed as the Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court.[9] On 1 December 1958, he was elevated as a justice to the Supreme Court of India. In his time he was the youngest judge of the Supreme Court of India. After serving as a judge for nearly 10 years, he was appointed as the Chief Justice of India on 28 February 1968 – becoming the first Muslim Chief Justice of India.

He retired from this position on 16 December 1970.[4][5][9]


During his term as the Chief Justice of India, the then-President of India, Zakir Husain died suddenly, in harness, on 3 May 1969. Then Vice President of India Mr. V. V. Giri became the acting President. Later, Giri resigned from both offices as acting president and Vice-President to become a candidate in the 1969 Presidential Election. Hidayatullah then served as the President of India for a short period from 20 July to 24 August. The visit of President of the United States Richard Nixon to India made his presidential term historic.

After his retirement, Hidayatullah was elected as the Vice-President of India by a consensus among different parties and occupied that high office with distinction from 1979 to August 1984. During his tenure as the Vice-President, he won the respect of all concerned for his impartiality and independence.

In 1982, when the then President Zail Singh went to the U.S. for medical treatment, Vice-President Hidayatullah officiated as president from 6 October 1982 to 31 October 1982. Thus, he officiated as acting president twice.

Having served at all of these positions made Hidayatullah unique among other members of Indian history. He became the only person to have served in all three offices of Chief Justice of India, President of India, and the Vice President of India.[4][5]

During his long tenure in the Supreme Court he was a party to a number of landmark judgments including the judgment in Golaknath v. State of Punjab which took the view that the Parliament had no power to cut down the Fundamental Rights by constitutional amendment. His judgment in the case of Ranjit D. Udeshi[10] dealing with the law of obscenity, displayed a flair for literature and is particularly of note.

Career in Nagpur

Before being elevated as a judge to High Court, Hidayatullah was involved in local and state affairs. The following are some of the committee positions he held:

Many of these positions, as well as those of High Court Justice were held prior to Indian Independence, they were all considered service to Great Britain, thus Hidayatullah was conferred the honour as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by King George VI in the 1946 King's Birthday Honours.[7]

Teaching and other associations

The entrance to the Justice Hidayatullah Moot Court Hall, named after Mohammad Hidayatullah, in the National Law School of India University in Bangalore

Having received an education at one of the premier legal institutions of the time, Hidayatullah was able to segue into an academic career not long after returning to India. In 1935, he took a teaching post at University College of Law, where he taught until 1943. Later he served as Dean of the Faculty of Law at Nagpur University from 1949 to 1953. In addition, he served as Faculty of Law at various other institutions throughout the 1950s: Sagar University, Court Vikram University, and the Aligarh Muslim University. He was Pro-Chancellor of the Delhi University from 1968 to 1970, Chancellor of the Jamia Millia Islamia from 1969 to 1985, Chancellor of the Delhi and Punjab Universities between 1979 and 1984 and Chancellor of the Hyderabad University from 1986 to 1990. He was the President of the Indian Law Institute from 1963 to 1970, President of the International Law Association (Indian Branch) from 1968 to 1970 and of the Indian Society of International Law in 1969–70.[2]

He was, at one time, a Member of the Executive Council of the World Assembly of Judges and of the Managing Committee of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law. He was a Member of the International Council of Former Scouts and Guides, Brussels, and Chief Scout of the Boy Scouts Association of India. Post-retirement, Hidayatullah renewed his interest in Boy Scouts and served as Chief Scout of the All India Boy Scouts Association from 1982 to 1992. He held the posts of the President of Bombay Natural History Society and of the Patron of Schizophrenic Research Foundation of India and Commonwealth Society of India. He was also a Member of the World Association for Orphans and Abandoned Children and a Settlor of the Jawaharlal Nehru-Cambridge University Trust. He also represented India in International Conferences held in different countries and cities, such as, Washington, London, Geneva, Sydney, the Hague, Tokyo, Stockholm, Belgrade, Cairo and Bangkok.[2]

Scholar and linguist

Hidayatullah was a scholar in Hindi, English, Urdu, Persian and French. He had working knowledge of some other Indian languages including Sanskrit and Bengali.[11]


Hidayatullah was the president of Indian Law Institute, International Law Association (Indian Branch), Indian Society of International Law from 1968 to 1970. He also presided the Indian Red Cross Society in 1982. He was closely associated with Hunger Project of USA, World Association of Orphans and Abandoned Children (Geneva), and Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Issues (1982–84).

The Hidayatullah National Law University at Naya Raipur is named after him.


Awards and honours

Between 1970 and 1987, as many as 12 Indian Universities and the University of Philippines conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctorate of Law or Literature.[2]


Hidayatullah National Law University

In his honour, the Hidayatullah National Law University was established in 2003, in his home town of Raipur, in the state of Chhattisgarh.[9] University also organises Justice Hidayatullah Memorial National Moot Court Competition (HNMCC) in his memory.[17]

Personal life

In 1948, Hidayatullah married Pushpa Shah, who was from a Jain family.[18] Her father name was A. N. Shah who was chairman of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal. She was the eldest daughter in her family. She married Hidayatullah on 5 May 1948.[19]

Their son, Arshad Hidayatullah, is a Senior Counsel at the Supreme Court of India.[3]

See also


  1. ^ "Former Vice Presidents of India". Secretariat of Vice President of India. Archived from the original on 17 October 2014. Retrieved 3 September 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Desai, P. D., Justice. "Full Court Reference in Memory of The Late Justice Mohammad Hidayatullah". (1992) 4 SCC (Jour) 10. Retrieved 3 September 2014.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ a b "Speech by Shri I. M. Chagla" (PDF). Bombay High Court. p. 7. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 September 1992. Retrieved 3 September 2014.
  4. ^ a b c "M. Hidayatullah". Archived from the original on 6 January 2014. Retrieved 8 June 2008.
  5. ^ a b c "EBC article on J. Hidayatullah". Retrieved 8 June 2008.
  6. ^ Full Court Reference in Memory of The Late Justice M. Hidayatullah, by M.H. Kania, Chief Justice of India: (1992) 4 SCC (Jour) 1
  7. ^ a b "Hidayatullah, Shri M." Secretariat of Vice President of India. Archived from the original on 28 July 2014. Retrieved 3 September 2014.
  8. ^ "Mohammad Hidayatullah". Supreme Court of India. Archived from the original on 6 January 2014. Retrieved 3 September 2014.
  9. ^ a b c d "Justice M. Hidayatullah". Hidayatullah National Law University. Archived from the original on 5 June 2014. Retrieved 3 September 2014.
  10. ^ "Ranjit D. Udeshi vs State Of Maharashtra on 19 August, 1964 Equivalent 1965 AIR 881, 1965 SCR (1) 65". Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  11. ^ "SPEECH BY MR. S. G. PAGE, GOVERNMENT PLEADER, HIGH COURT, BOMBAY" (PDF). Bombay High Court. 28 September 1992. Retrieved 3 September 2014.
  12. ^ Archived 18 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine Books by M. Hidayatullah: getCITED
  13. ^ "The London Gazette, 13 June 1946". Retrieved 13 January 2020.
  14. ^ "He is Proud Past Alumni Allahabad University" Archived 7 July 2012 at Allahabad university Alumni Association web page say
  15. ^ "Best Reviews and Top Ten Products to Buy in 2019". Review Best. 10 November 2018. Archived from the original on 15 January 2008. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
  16. ^ "Best Reviews and Top Ten Products to Buy in 2019". Review Best. 10 November 2018. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
  17. ^ "Justice Hidayatullah Memorial National Moot Court Competition (HNMCC)" (PDF). Lexcetera. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 September 2014. Retrieved 3 September 2014.
  18. ^ "The Liberty To Love". The Indian Express. 31 October 2017. Retrieved 5 October 2022.
  19. ^ Jai, Janak Raj (2003). Presidents of India, 1950-2003. Regency Publications. ISBN 978-81-87498-65-0.
Legal offices Preceded byKailas Nath Wanchoo Chief Justice of India 1968–1970 Succeeded byJayantilal Chhotalal Shah Political offices Preceded byVarahagiri Venkata GiriActing President of IndiaActing 1969 Succeeded byVarahagiri Venkata Giri Preceded byBasappa Danappa Jatti Vice President of India 1979–1984 Succeeded byRamaswamy Venkataraman