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A Judge Nonpareil – a B K Mukherjea Reader, V Sudhish Pai

On 15th August, 1891 Bijan Kumar was born at Nabadwip which was not only the birth place of Sri Chaitanya but was considered a centre of learning particularly of Nyaya philosophy. The ancestors of Justice Bijan Kumar Mukherjea were renowned Sanskrit scholars. He studied in Mohasin College, Hooghly and had a brilliant academic career. He obtained a Master’s in Law from the University of Calcutta, which in those days was considered one of the toughest courses. The Calcutta University conferred the degree of Doctor of Law for his research thesis. Bijan Kumar began to practise law as a Vakil in the Calcutta High Court from the year 1914 and soon made his mark and became one of the busiest lawyers on the Appellate side. He was inducted as a lecturer in the newly established Calcutta University College of Law. In the year 1936 he was elevated to the Bench of the Calcutta High Court. Justice Bijan Kumar Mukherjea had delivered a number of remarkable judgments in different branches of law.

In 1948 Bijan Kumar Mukherjea was appointed as a judge of the Federal Court of India and after the commencement of the Constitution of India, of the Supreme Court of India. On the retirement of Chief Justice Mahajan in 1954, he was appointed as the fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In the year 1951 Bijan Kumar Mukherjea delivered his Tagore Law Lectures on the subject of Hindu Law of Religious and Charitable Trusts. Justice Douglas of the Supreme Court of the United States of America for very good reasons gave to his Tagore Law Lectures the title, “Marshall to Mukherjea”.

Justice Bijan Kumar Mukherjea resigned due to ill health shortly before the end of his term. He passed away on 22nd February, 1956.

Justice M N Venkatachalliah, Former Chief Justice of India remarks in his Foreword to this book “This is a great tribute and richly deserved. But Justice Bijan Kumar Mukherjea is all this and much more. His life was an inspiration to others. Words are sometimes inadequate to describe such greatness. It is often asked in judicial circles: who is the greatest Indian judge of the 20th century? Many names are tossed-up. In common-law jurisdiction where judicial law-making is not anonymous and the appointment of a judge to a superior court is indeed the announcement of an emerging judicial personality such debates abound.”

The book contains a biographical sketch of Bijan Babu, some writings by and on him, besides comprehensive editorial notes on all his reported judgments rendered in the Federal Court and the Supreme Court.

Manish Arora

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