Personality of the Month

Dr. Saleem Akhtar

An American law school has cited Dr. Saleem Akhtar’s book Shah Bano Judgment: Islamic Perspective as one of the 10 books to read for women and gender issues. This book was also cited in High Courts and Lower Courts Uttar Pradesh. From Family Law to IPR, he has worked in many areas.

He lived his father’s dream and today is the Dean of the School of Law at Ansal University. Coming out of the narrow confines of a village and his agricultural community of Dibai in Uttar Pradesh was no mean feat for Dr. Saleem Akhtar. But he is modest and humble about his success. An academician par excellence, he was associated with the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) since his student, which is a huge span of 36 years. He has held many positions there, with a hat-trick as the Dean and Chairman of the Faculty of Law. “Actually, Ansal University is the culmination of all my experience and at a crucial juncture, as we are introducing the law programme,” smiles the good teacher who has been planning a top-notch academic programme for the University.

Some areas that he has major specialisations in are intellectual property rights and family laws. He also has minor specialisations in labour law, human rights, constitutional law, social security legislations and business law. Over his many years of contribution to legal education in the country, he has played a significant role in the development of academic programmes on intellectual property rights, environmental law, social security legislation, sociology of law, human rights, hindu law, muslim law, research methodology, women and law, company law, property laws, labour laws, Industrial Disputes Act, clinical legal education and wildlife policy & legislation. Not one to flaunt his qualifications, he mentions softly that he has been a member of the distinguished bodies of various law schools to start the B.A. (LL.B.) five-year integrated course.

Having spent a lifetime in Uttar Pradesh, Dr. Akhtar was inspired by his father to pick up law. A politician and village pradhan of seven villages in district Bulandshahr, Abdul Jabar would have his four sons around when matters related to the village and its welfare came to him. Incidentally, all studied at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) – two became engineers and one became a doctor. “As he was the village pradhan, people would come to let their disputes settled by my father, which were of all kinds such as family problems, property disputes,” explains the quiet and gentle Dr. Akhtar. “I distinctly remember a case where a man wanted to divorce his wife and my father said the husband must give his wife five bighas of land as alimony till remarriage or death. Then in the Shah Bano case, this was actually made the law.” So his Ph.D. was in family law and he has even written many books – Shah Bano judgment: Islamic Perspective, Uniform Civil Code: Problems and Prospects and protection of Trademarks and Domain Names in India and Abroad. Without delving into the details, Dr. Akhtar mentions that an American law school has cited his book Shah Bano Judgment: Islamic Perpective as one of the 10 books to read for women and gender issues. This book was also cited in High Courts and Lower Courts across Uttar Pradesh. From Family law to IPR, he has worked on many areas.

As Dr. Akhtar had done well in his standard XII exams, he enrolled for Bachelor’s in Science in AMU in 1967. But his then roommate and later mentor Dr. Naseem ahmad, who is also the former Vice-Chancellor of AMU, asked him to puruse law. So he turned to LL.B., then LL.M. and finally Ph.D.

In his crucial 36 years at AMU, he has held many positions there. He started as the Assistant Professor in 1978, became Associate Professor n 1989 and became the youngest Professor there in 1992.

A simple man with simple tastes, he likes reading and being an administrator. He has been Coordinator, Centre for Environmental Law; Member in-Charge, Properties and Waqf, Chairman, National assessment and Accreditation council (NAAC) Committee; Member of the Sexual Harassment Committee as well as Member of the Bio-Ethical Committee, Jawahar Lal Nehru Medical College. He also has the distinction of having been mentor and guide to a whopping 23 Ph.D. students there.

A man who likes to keep a low profile, dr. Akhtar mentions that after his entry into law, the family’s ambience has been law and only law. His wife Noreen’s father was a district judge and her brother a district session judge. Now both his sons— Junaid and Ali are also lawyers. Junaid, the elder one, works with MV Kini & Co. and practices at the Supreme Court. And even his daughters. Taha and Farah Saleem, have studied an allied subject— Post Graduation in Human Rights.

On his childhood spent in rural india, cites how he had read the Quran Sharif when he was just eight years old. And he liked reading comics and a magazine Bessvi Sadi.
Transiting to his college days, he spent almost 14 years in hostels and would snooker throughout the night. He was also interested in hockey, cricket, billiard and badminton. He remembers how the famous Bollywood actor Naseerudin Shah was made to climb a tree and do azaan, (call of prayer) at midnight. “Introductions by seniors were great fun and not ragging. As he couldn’t do azaan, he was then asked to go to the washroom and get two live mosquitoes— male and female,” he laughs. Talking more about AMU, he cites how everyone used bicycles, most do even today. The USP of AMU is that it is the world’ cheapest university. Even now, food is offered at Rs. 1000 per month. Even the fee is a nominal Rs. 20 or Rs. 22 for most courses.

On the food he likes— mutton in his village times, ladies finger during his hostel days and now anything and everything. Though Dr. Akhtar is not much of a movie person, there are some classics he likes— Mughal-e-Azam, Do Beegha Zameen— and music of Shakeel Badaun and Naushad. Coming to his family, most holidays are spent at their farmhouse in the village among the 150 acres of mango orchards. Nainital and Shimla are also favourite spots. Most of his summers are spent in Kashimr at the university there, as he is a visiting professor and examiner. He is also a visiting professor in many other universities.

His aim now is to provide quality and innovative education with modern elective subjects— competition law, air and space law, women and law, media and law, human rights and gender justice to name a few.

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