Mumbai: Most regard Mohammad Ali Jinnah as a rabidly communal person who colluded with the British and was largely responsible for the partition of the country – and rightly so. But there was also a time when Jinnah was associated with the Congress and professed to be a ‘nationalist’; then, as a practicing lawyer in the Bombay High Court, he had even pleaded for Lokmanya Tilak in his sedition trial. The break with the Congress came later — over the civil disobedience movement, which he disapproved of, and Gandhi’s support of the Khilafat movement.
But what will concern Mumbaikars is that Jinnah was also – first and foremost — a citizen of old Bombay, a practicing advocate and, from all accounts, a highly accomplished one. So, it is no small wonder that the Bombay High Court has preserved his photo, portrait, original Barrister certificate and the application he had submitted for wanting to practice as an advocate.
However, now with the demand to remove his photograph rearing it head on the Aligarh Muslim University campus, the Bombay High Court museum committee, comprising of judges, is considering stepping up security for those wanting to see the Jinnah ‘memorabilia’.
“We have preserved all these articles, including the portrait and the certificate,” Advocate Rajan Jayakar told the Free Press Journal. Jayakar was tasked with the responsibility of setting up the court museum where historical collectibles are displayed.
Interestingly, Jinnah still has a reputation in the High Court of being able to salvage any lost case. “His reputation was that even if one had a completely hopeless case, he would make something out of it,” said Jayakar.
More important, but well-documented, is the fact that Jinnah had also defended the great nationalist Lokmanya Tilak, who left his imprint on the Hindu ethos by popularising the Ganesh utsav. It was a historic trial with Jinnah taking up Tilak’s cause and helping him secure bail in a case of sedition slapped on him by the British Government. That eventually Tilak fought his own case and lost it, is another matter.
Jinnah, then, had even boycotted the farewell dinner of the judge who had convicted and sentenced Tilak in the sedition trial.
While the right wing has its strong reasons for seeking the removal of his portrait at AMU, according to Mumbai advocate V P Patil, “Jinnah’s contribution to judiciary must be appreciated.’’ Warming up to the theme, Patil explains, ‘‘He was an established advocate of the Bombay High Court (unlike Gandhi). Not many know that Jinnah had appeared for Tilak.
In fact, Jinnah had boycotted the farewell dinner of Justice Dawar, who had sentenced Tilak to six years imprisonment. Jinnah boycotted the dinner because of the language used by the judge for Tilak,” advocate Patil added.
It is for these reasons that there was a portrait of Jinnah in the iconic central courtroom of the High Court, where the sedition trial was conducted. This central court is today mostly presided over by the Chief Justice of the High Court.
Taking cognizance of the rising demand for taking down Jinnah’s portraits in institutions, a senior police official tasked with the security of the High Court said they don’t think anyone would dare to enter the court and harm the collectibles associated with Jinnah.
It has also been confirmed, the museum committee, comprising of the judges, has done some stock taking and will beef up the security. ‘‘The security is in any case good. However, anyone can carry a pen inside the museum; this issue will be tackled by the committee. We are proud of our legacy and will protect it,” said Advocate Jayakar.