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When AN Jha?s comment on Nehru raised a storm

FORMER CHIEF Justice of the Allahabad High Court MN Shukla enjoys a good health and sound memory even when he is over 82-year-old. He may stun you by narrating the sentence spoken by some dignitary even five-six decades ago. And, if you ask the secret behind this amazing memory, he humbly gives the credit to 'Gayatri jap,' meditation and prayers.
By Prem Kant Tiwari | None, Allahabad
PUBLISHED ON JUN 25, 2006 12:07 AM IST

FORMER CHIEF Justice of the Allahabad High Court MN Shukla enjoys a good health and sound memory even when he is over 82-year-old. He may stun you by narrating the sentence spoken by some dignitary even five-six decades ago.

And, if you ask the secret behind this amazing memory, he humbly gives the credit to 'Gayatri jap,' meditation and prayers.

He had started the Gayatri jap a few years before becoming the HC judge and after retirement he devotes more time to prayers. He claims that he has been enjoying every moment of life by the grace of God.

Son of Late Prem Narain Shukla, a leading lawyer of Kanpur, Justice Shukla  spent early days of his life in Kanpur. He had passed High School from DAV College, Kanpur in first division. And his special achievement was distinction in English subject. Later, he passed Intermediate from the prestigious BNSD College of Kanpur. He says: "it was a golden period of my life and the BNSD College proved to be a cradle of my future career. The college had a parliament and I was elected its speaker and in this capacity I had the privilege to preside all functions of the college and meet some of the greatest luminaries of the country, including Dr S Radhakrishnan, Sarojini Naidu, Dr Hridaynath Kunzru, Dr Amarnath Jha and Pandit Makhanlal Chaturvedi."

Here are the excerpts of the interview:
At the BNSD College, I used to introduce the guests and deliver a short speech that set the pattern of all my future speeches, which won wide acclaim.

Principal of the college Heeralal Khanna and PK Ray, a teacher, impressed me greatly. Ray had an uncanny knack of the English language. He furnished such a solid foundation that I could subsequently erect an edifice.

After passing Intermediate examination by securing fourth position in Uttar Pradesh, I took admission in Allahabad University in 1942 and got a coveted berth in Muir Hostel, which was regarded as the nursery of ICS officers.

Dr Amar Nath Jha, the then Vice-Chancellor of Allahabad University, was himself the warden of the hostel. Dr AN Jha had come to know me when he visited the BNSD College, Kanpur. I had presided over the function. 

Admission to Muir Hostel was no mean achievement those days. Dr AN Jha used to say that one of the three conditions was essential for admission: "One should be either a first-class student or a first-class sportsman or an unmitigated scoundrel." I once jocularly asked Dr Jha: "Sir, in which category did you place me?" He laughed and replied: "In the first category."

Dr AN Jha's superlative ego was well-known and the discerning observers did not fail to notice the clash of personalities between him and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.

At an English conference held in Kashmir Dr AN Jha in presidential address found fault with Nehru's writings in English. This annoyed many journalists and they raised storm of indignation against  Dr Jha.

The National Herald in its editorial commented: "These fire-eating Byronic professors, when they think that they are making epigrams, they are committing conundrums." I was a passionate reader of National Herald and by chance I called on Dr Jha the same day. I presumed that he must have seen the editorial.

He asked me: "Which newspaper do you read?" and without any qualms, I told a lie and said: "I read The Statesman."

However, Dr Jha, a great scholar and a consummate speaker and an administrator par excellence, reacted to this editorial in a dignified manner:

"Protestantism breeds an attitude of mind which can at best be called militant."

After doing MA and LL.B. I started practice in Kanpur. But, just after three years I shifted to Allahabad and started practice at the High Court. Simultaneously, I taught Law students at AU. I have no hesitation in admitting that my unexpected and speedy success in High Court was in a large measure due to my proficiency in English.

As a lawyer, I appeared in Dr Ram Manohar Lohia's case in which I was opposed by Pandit Kanhaiya Lal Mishra, the then Advocate-General. After 15 years' practice, I was elevated as High Court Judge. During my tenure as a judge and then Chief Justice, I used to dictate judgements in the open court. I was of the opinion that a delayed judgement is apt to give rise to speculations. Several judgements delivered by me had even evoked comments from scholars of India and other countries.

Little wonder that I left my seat on the day of my farewell (turning my back upon the High Court forever), I rose from my seat reciting the following couplet, which was flashed by many newspapers:
"Kisi ke rokne se kab tera deewana rukta hai,
Bahaar aai, chala main, yeh dhari hain bediyan meri.

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