Every time I cross the Cornelius Underpass on Lahore’s Canal Bank Road, I remember one of the city’s greatest sons, who immigrated from India at the time of partition and chose to make Lahore his home to to spend the rest of his time living in this city. Alvin Robert Cornelius was the only Indian Christian ICS officer in the judicial service who chose to work in Pakistan while all of his other colleagues dropped their lot for service in India. He had been appointed a High Court Judge in 1946. He later helped the Pakistani government draft laws for refugees and their rehabilitation, which was a tremendous task (which he performed with decency and honor). After serving as Secretary Law for some time, he was appointed Judge of the Federal Supreme Court (later the Supreme Court of Pakistan) in 1951, where he served as Chief Justice from 1960 to 1968. He was the second senior chief justice in Pakistan. After retiring, he founded a law firm and remained active until 1988, later falling ill and dying in 1991.
Two Supreme Court presidents before him, Judge Sir Abdur Rashid and Judge Mohammad Munir, were in the British tradition and were essentially secular. Judge Cornelius, however, disagreed. As an â€œIslamicâ€ country, Pakistan should not follow the British example, but rather create a synthesis of Islamic ideals with modern thinking. Judge Cornelius later demonstrated this synthesis in several judgments by combining Islamic ideals with modern rational thinking. At one point he even referred to himself as a “constitutional Muslim”. By establishing a dialogue between Western and Islamic jurisprudence, he made it more understandable for the common man.
Another contribution from Judge Cornelius was that he broadened the scope of fundamental rights in Pakistan. Although the country remained largely under martial law during his tenure as Pakistan’s Chief Justice, when parliamentary democracy was stifled under the Ayub regime, he ensured that the courts did their part to protect and enforce fundamental rights in the country.
Judge Cornelius is known for his emphasis on the rule of law and due process.
Justice AR Cornelius valued the principles of truth, equity, and good conscience. Previously, he had played his role as a prominent freedom activist for the Pakistani movement. He believed that the religion of Islam was based on the pristine principles of justice and equality, which made him the “most unlikely advocate of Islamization”. As a patriotic citizen of a newly emerging Islamic state, he became a renowned advocate of human rights.
Hamid Khan, a senior Supreme Court attorney, wrote in an article, Justice AR Cornelius: Services and Contributions to Justice System in Pakistan: â€œThe cornerstones of Justice Cornelius’ legal philosophy can be summarized in three points: (a) Right has one moral function in society; (b) The law should be culturally sensitive and (c) Islam is a valid basis for a universal society. “
The judgments of the judge Cornelius formed the basis for the introduction of the “judicial control” of the administrative procedure and the principles of natural justice. His historical dissent in the Maulvi Tamizuddin case is a prime example of judicial courage and sincerity in the annals of Pakistani history. The background to this case is that in April 1953 the governor general dismissed the government of Khawaja Nazimuddin with his arbitrary powers. To curb such activity in the future, the Constituent Assembly passed two amendments that narrowed its jurisdiction. In response, the governor general dissolved the constituent assembly, declared a state of emergency and formed a new government under Mohammad Ali Bogra. Bogra accepted General Ayub Khan, the C-in-C in his cabinet, as Secretary of Defense. This marked the beginning of the civilian service being taken over by the army and the end of the predominance of the civilian population over military power. Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan, the president of the constituent assembly, called for the state of emergency and the dissolution of the assembly as “unconstitutional and unlawful”.
A full bench of the Sindh Chief Court unanimously ruled Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan. But later, on appeal, the Sind High Court’s decision was overturned by a four-to-one majority. Judge Cornelius was the only judge in the five-person bank who drafted a dissenting note and upheld the Sind Chief Court’s verdict. If the majority in the Federal Court of Justice had agreed with Judge Cornelius, Pakistan’s constitutional history might have been different today. Nevertheless, the opinion of Judge Cornelius in this case strongly influenced the Federal Court of Justice in later judgments.
Later, in the Youssef Patel case, the Federal Court of Justice ruled that the Governor General was empowered to validate the laws retrospectively within the framework of â€œstate necessityâ€. But Judge Cornelius took the view that there was no provision in the constitution by which the governor general could affirm emergency powers. In the Dosso case, Judge Cornelius agreed with the majority view that a successful coup was an internationally recognized method of amending a constitution, but, contrary to the majority opinion, took the view that fundamental rights do not expire with the imposition of martial law, as these rights are essentially human rights which did not require a written guarantee and which by nature belonged to every citizen of a country. In the case of Moulana Maududi, he took the view that any law that conflicted with the constitutional right to freedom of association was null and void. Judge Cornelius helped develop the doctrines of “judicial review” and “separation of powers” in Pakistan. He saw the function of judicial review as “a control against an excess of power in deviation from private law”.
He believed that the fundamental rights enshrined in the Pakistani constitution are based on the principles of democracy, freedom, tolerance and social justice as initiated by Islam.
He is known for his emphasis on the rule of law and the rule of law; the enforcement of fundamental rights; Separation of powers, especially between the executive and judiciary; Inserting and incorporating principles of natural justice into all judicial, quasi-judicial and administrative proceedings; Repeal of mala-fide acts and orders of public officials; and the protection of citizens from unnecessary and unjustified detention under preventive detention laws are the foundation of the liberal jurisprudence he has established for Pakistani citizens and future generations.
In short, the fundamental rights and civil liberties guaranteed to citizens by the Constitution were developed into living law in the first years of Pakistan’s existence through the judgments of Judge Cornelius. His judgments were based on democratic principles. In doing so, he has done the Pakistani people a lasting service by developing the rule of law, the rule of law, citizenship equality, fundamental rights and democracy.
And last but not least, Judge Cornelius is considered the father of cricket in Pakistan. He had an unwavering love of cricket and had played good cricket when he was young at Cambridge. He remained president of the BCCP for several years, leading Pakistan to the heights of international cricket fame.
In personal virtues he was unsurpassed. Although the Cornelius family held prestigious offices throughout their lives, they lived thrifty and simple lives. He once said: “For our people, prosperity is poison.” He lived with his family in rented houses until 1948 and later moved to the Faletti’s Hotel in Lahore, where he stayed for thirty years until his death in 1991. He never moved into the Chief Justice’s office and led a simple life. He didn’t like the fanfare or entourage of henchmen or bodyguards to which he was entitled as a former chief justice of Pakistan. He kept his only British car, Wolsely, a 1953 model, for the rest of his life.
The author is a former provincial community service member and author of Moments in Silence