Dr. Satish Chandra Banerji: The Doyen of Allahabad High Court—A Sesquicentennial Tribute by Anurag Banerjee

Sri Aurobindo had once written in a letter to his disciple Dilip Kumar Roy that the ultimate value of a man should not be measured by what he says or does but by what he becomes. When the pages of history are turned back by a hundred and fifty years, we are led to a glorious past where we had a galaxy of stalwarts — be it in the fields of philosophy, literature, social work or politics. Each of them shone like bright jewels and made their presence felt. But in the firmament of such bright stars, there was one who dabbled with equal ease in all the aforementioned spheres of activities and outshone his great peers and contemporaries and would have certainly established himself as the greatest of all had his life’s journey been not cut short abruptly. Yet, so great were his achievements than even after one hundred and six years of his demise, he is remembered with reverence by practitioners of law who consider his magnum opus, The Law of Specific Relief, to be one of the best books written on the said subject. Such was Dr. Satish Chandra Banerji whose birth sesquicentenary is being celebrated in 2021.

Ancestral Background:

The Banerji dynasty traces its origin to Bhattanarayan, one of the five Brahmins who lived in Kanauj but had migrated to undivided Bengal (then known as Gaur) following the invitation of the ruler of the land. His son Adibaraha settled in the village of Bandaghati in the district of Birbhum; thus his descendants obtained the surname of ‘Bandopadhyay’ (‘Banda’ denoted the name of the village and ‘Upadhyay’ the title of the clan). Adibaraha’s brother Kayakushari was the ancestor of Rabindranath Tagore. Another brother of his who was called Neep or Nripa was the ancestor of Maharaja Rai Bhabananda Majumdar of Nadia. Adibaraha’s great-grandson was Bibhudesh. Bibhudesh’s son Subaksha was the ancestor of Sir Woomesh Chandra Bonnerji, the famous barrister and first President of Indian National Congress. Another son of Bibhudesh was Gau; Gau’s son was Gangadhar; Gangadhar’s son and grandson were Pashupati and Shakuni respectively. Maheshwar, Shakuni’s son, had received the designation of ‘Kulin’ from Raja Ballala Sen, the second ruler of the Sena dynasty of Bengal (1160 A.D.—1179 A.D.), According to the system of Kulinism, a few families in different castes were considered to be superior to other families in the same caste. Maheshwar’s son was Mahadev; Mahadev’s son was Durbali. Durbali had five sons: Ananta, Hari, Sanket, Narayan and Bhaskar. Bhaskar was the ancestor of Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar while Narayan and Sanket were the ancestors of Pandit Haraprasad Shastri and Raja Ram Mohan Roy respectively. Hari’s son Udayan was honored with the title of ‘Kabi Kankan’ by Firoz Shah Tughlaq, the third ruler of the Tughlaq dynasty who ruled the Delhi sultanate from 1351 A.D. to 1388 A.D. Udayan’s son was Madhab; Madhab’s son was Pandit Bishnu Mishra who was the father of Pritidhar. Pritidhar’s son and grandson were Gangadhar and Bhagirath respectively. Bhagirath had four sons: Jitamitra, Debananda, Srimanta and Sripati. Sripati’s son Durgadas was honoured with the ‘Raja Chakraborty’ title; thus he came to be known as Raja Durgadas Chakraborty and his descendants continued to use this title. Durgadas had two sons: Raghab and Rameshwar. Rameshwar was the ancestor of Prof. Lalit Kumar Banerjee, Prof. Ishan Chandra Banerjee, Satyendranath Banerjee (barrister) and Kali Charan Banerjee (after whom the Kali Babu Road in Howrah was named). Raghab’s son was Jayaram. Jayaram had three sons: Radharam (also known as Rudraram as per some records), Keshabram (ancestor of Rai Bahadur Jyotindranath Bandopadhyay and Rangalal Bandopadhyay, the famous Bengali poet known for his masterpieces like Padmini Upakhyan, Karmadevi, Shurasundari, Kanchi Kaveri, Bhek-Musiker Yuddha, Nitikusumanjali and Kavikankan Chandi) and Raghuram (ancestor of Jogesh Chandra Bandopadhyay and Surendranath Bandopadhyay, both were honored by the ‘Rai Bahadur’ title by the British Government). Radharam or Rudraram fathered three sons: Mukundaram, Abhiram (ancestor of Sir Surendranath Banerjea, the famous political leader who twice became the President of the Indian National Congress, and

Hem Chandra Bandopadhyay, the patriotic poet and lawyer best known for his works like Vritrasanghar, Virvahu Kavya, Chhayamayi, Dashamahavidya, Ashakanan and Chittavikash) and Nandaram (who broke the ‘Kulin’ legacy by marrying into the family of Sabarna Roy Chowdhury. Mukundaram’s son was Ramdulal. Ramdulal’s son Benoderam had settled at Barisha in South Kolkata. He had two sons: Harish Chandra and Ram Charan. It was during the time of these two brothers that the practice of using the ‘Raja Chakraborty’ title was stopped for good and the usage of the original surname of Banerji resumed. Ram Charan was childless. Harish Chandra had married four times: from his first wife he had a son named Moti; from the second wife he had another son named Kalinath. His third wife, Padmavati gave birth to three daughters and two sons: Prasanna Kumar (born in 1818) and Bhuban Mohan (born in 1820). Prasanna Kumar had married twice; from his first wife Prasannamoyi, he had three sons Abinash Chandra, Hari Mohan (born on 24th June 1866) and Anukul Chandra (born on 2nd October 1869) and two daughters Purnashasi (married to Jogindranath Chatterjee) and Khiroda. Nothing much is known about Anukul Chandra except that he was married to Kenadasi. Hari Mohan was a legal practitioner and had shifted to the United Provinces (presently known as Uttar Pradesh) where he rose to the rank of a Judge. His wife was Surobala. From his second wife Jayakali, Prasanna Kumar had one daughter named Haridasi and a son Sarada Prasad, a physician who was married to Muktokesi.

Born on 24th September 1846 Abinash Chandra Banerji, like many young men of his generation had come under the influence of Keshub Chandra Sen, the leader of the Brahmo Samaj, and became its staunch adherent but afterwards he went back ‘to the old faith’ as noted by Sir Surendranath Banerjea, his boyhood friend, who also recalled in his autobiography A Nation in Making: ‘But whether as a Brahmo, or as a Hindu, he was one of the finest of men and one of the most agreeable of companions.’ (p. 42)

Abinash Chandra had passed the examinations of the University of Calcutta with great credit. He was married to Nistarini Devi, daughter of Prof. Jadunath Mukherjee. After obtaining the Bachelor of Law degree, he shifted to Agra to practise as a lawyer as the High Court (then known as the High Court of Judicature for the North Western Provinces) was situated in this city in the 1860s. However, he soon exchanged the Bar for the Bench and joined the Judicial Service. As a Subordinate Judge he was posted in various cities of the United Provinces like Agra, Allahabad and Aligarh. It was during his posting in Agra that he had received his friend Sir Surendranath Banerjea as a guest when the latter visited him in the summer of 1877. ‘We met after a long time, and had revived the memories of olden days,’ recalled Surendranath in his A Nation in Making (p. 42).

Abinash Chandra Banerji (24 September 1846—20 April 1892)

It was also in Agra that Abinash Chandra’s second son Satish Chandra was born. His eldest son, Sushil Chandra, having obtained his Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Law degrees, had joined the Provincial Civil Service and went on to become a Judge. He was married to Sushilabati, daughter of Keshab Chandra Mukherjee, but the couple remained issueless. Suresh Chandra, Abinash Chandra’s youngest son, was born on 6th December 1872. Unlike his father or two elder brothers, he chose to study medicine and established himself as a successful physician. He and his wife Pankajini were blessed with four sons (Dr. Bijoyendu Bhushan, Bimalendu Bhushan, Amalendu Bhushan and Ardhendu Bhushan) and six daughters (Kanaklata, Ashalata, Shantilata, Bonolata, Madhabilata and Snehalata). He passed away on 5th August 1921, four months before his forty-ninth birthday. It is a sad observation that neither Abinash Chandra nor his three sons could reach the age of fifty!

Dr. Suresh Chandra Banerji (6 December 1872— 5 August 1921)

Dr. Satish Chandra Banerji: His Life and Achievements

Satish Chandra Banerji was born on 20th June 1871. As his father had a transferable job, Satish Chandra was educated at different places. His school education began at the Government High School in Allahabad where he had Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, the renowned educational reformer and politician, as one of his teachers. When Abinash Chandra was transferred to Aligarh, Satish Chandra joined the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College (founded by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan in 1875) where he had as his teachers distinguished academicians like Sir Theodore Morrison, Prof. Wallace, Sir Thomas Walker Arnold and Sir Walter Alexander Raleigh, the noted Shakespearean scholar. By the virtue of his intelligence and quest for learning, Satish Chandra had endeared himself to all of his teachers particularly Sir Thomas Walker Arnold and Sir Walter Alexander Raleigh. Both of them played a pivotal role in igniting in the young heart of Satish Chandra a profound love for philosophy and literature. When Abinash Chandra was transferred back to Agra, Satish joined the Agra College to pursue his higher education. Just as a jeweller can recognize the actual worth of a gem in no time, Mr. A. Thompson, the Principal of Agra College (1882-1901), recognized the spark of philosophic talent in Satish Chandra. He took a keen, rather personal, interest in Satish Chandra and saw to it that the young man’s intellectual faculties blossomed to the fullest. As per the instructions of Mr. Thompson, Satish Chandra was given free and unlimited access to the Library of Agra College as well as to the Principal’s personal library. While Satish Chandra found a guide for his philosophic pursuits in Mr. Thompson, he found the mentor he was seeking for his literary activities in Prof. Andrews, a scholar of English Literature from Cambridge. Under Prof. Andrews, Satish Chandra studied Elizabethan and Victorian literature and developed an unparalleled mastery of the works of William Shakespeare. ‘To say that very few scholars’, remarks Chief Justice Gyanendra Kumar of Allahabad High Court in an article on Satish Chandra, ‘who have devoted themselves to the study of Shakespeare have had that exact and intuitive perception of him as Dr. Satish would be no exaggeration. In interpreting Shakespeare, novelty is its own condemnation. Shakespeare, as Dr. Satish saw him, was a poet of concrete things, deeply concerned with human nature the same eternal joys and sorrows, virtues and sins of flesh, which not only the poet but the weaker mortals are also permitted to see. His commentation of the views of Gervinus on Shakespeare as a moralist was greatly acclaimed by Prof. Dowden who readily accepted his suggestions.’ So profound was Satish Chandra’s command over Shakespearean literature that he was counted among the best scholars of Shakespeare in the bygone century.

In 1890 Satish Chandra appeared for his Bachelor of Arts examination in Allahabad University as well as Calcutta University with honours in English Literature and secured a first class first position in both. He repeated this extraordinary feat two years later in 1892 when he appeared for his Master of Arts examination in the universities of Calcutta and Allahabad simultaneously and again secured the first class first position in both.

Although this rare achievement had brought a smile of pride among his family members, there were reasons to lament as well for Satish Chandra lost his father around this time. Abinash Chandra Banerji passed away on 20th April 1892 at the age of forty-five. Surendranath Banerjea noted about Abinash Chandra in his autobiography: ‘His brilliant career on the Bench was prematurely cut short but his memory is still cherished with affection by those who knew him…’ (A Nation in Making, p. 42).

Soon after the death of his father, Satish Chandra joined the Hooghly College in Bengal as a lecturer. And it was during his sojourn as a lecturer that he won the prestigious Premchand Roychand Scholarship, the greatest honour an Indian scholar could ask for. In 1863, Claudius Erskine, the Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University, had appealed to the wealthy individuals of the society to contribute to the progress of education in India by funding scholarships and educational constructions. In response to his appeal, Premchand Roychand (1831-1906), a Parsi businessman donated three lakhs of rupees which formed the nucleus of Premchand Roychand Scholarship which was initiated by the University of Calcutta in 1866 and was given to a meritorious student every year who had cleared the Master of Arts degree with flying colours. Some of the recipients of this prestigious scholarship were Sir Ashutosh Mookerjee (1886), Ramendrasundar Trivedi (1888) and Jadunath Sarkar (1897).

When he was still a student pursuing his Master of Arts degree, Satish Chandra had published an edition of Alfred Tennyson’s narrative poem, The Princess, with a ‘most learned synthetical introduction.’ In June 1893, when he was in his twenty-second year, he published an edition of George Berkeley’s Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous with a critical introduction authored by him to provide a short preliminary discussion on the philosophy of Berkeley. The notes which he provided at the end were chiefly explanatory and suggestive. Berkeley’s Dialogues which had originally appeared in print in 1713 occupied a very significant place in English philosophical literature. Yet, no edition of such a monumental work was available at that time for use in collegiate levels. Satish Chandra had realized the need of such an edition and hence published one with his own philosophical treatise which he dedicated to Sir John Edge (1841-1926), the Chief Justice of the High Court for the North Western Provinces and Vice-Chancellor of Allahabad University. This book earned for Satish Chandra critical acclaim from both Indian and Western scholars. Sir Alexander Campbell Fraser of Edinburgh, an authority on Berkeley, wrote to Satish Chandra: ‘I have read your Introduction, etc., with great interest, and appreciate it as among the best and truest expositions of the subject that I have anywhere met with … I hope your book may be widely known and read.’ He also remarked elsewhere that Satish Chandra was one of the greatest scholars on Berkeley outside England. Prof. J. Sully of London wrote to Satish Chandra after reading his Berkeley’s Three Dialogues: ‘It ought to prove an interesting introduction to the study of modern philosophy. Your introduction strikes me as clear and to the point.’ About the same book, Prof. J. E. Creighton (Cornell) wrote in The Philosophical Review (Volume II., pp. 749-750): ‘The editor of this book merits our thanks for doing for these Dialogues what Prof. Fraser did for the Principles and the other writings of Berkeley contained in [his Selections] … The Introduction also gives an exceedingly good analysis of Berkeley’s most important treatises, … a first-rate exposition of Berkeley’s doctrines … The notes, too, are just what notes to a philosophical work should be, — short, clear, and suggestive, rather than exhaustive, whenever the subject requires personal reflection on the part of the student.’

So well received was Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous as edited by Satish Chandra that in March 1897, its second and revised edition was published by the Indian Press of Allahabad. Satish Chandra incorporated not only certain additions to his critical introduction and notes and recast and rewrote certain passages but also added an index at the end of the book.

As a Premchand Roychand scholar, Satish Chandra had to satisfy the syndicate of the University of Calcutta that within two years of being awarded the scholarship some special research work had been carried out by him. He chose the Sankhya school of thought as he was deeply interested in Indian philosophy. However, while conducting an in-depth study of the ancient Indian scriptures, he realized that there were insufficient textbooks in English which — to quote his own words — ‘… approach the subject in the right spirit and present such an exposition of it as is calculated to facilitate the study for those who have been brought up in the methods of the western schools of thought.’ (Preface, Sankhya Philosophy, p. vii) He had comprehended that to make ancient Indian philosophy a ‘living force’ once again, it was necessary for its assimilation with modern thought. And to materialize such an assimilation the past had to be interpreted in the light of the present, the decaying or disintegrating branches had to be pruned and a synthesis of the East and the West should be achieved. With this noble intention acting as an inspiration, he began a dedicated study of Sankhya philosophy. During the course of his study, he decided that his work should take the form of a commentary on the leading textbook on the Sankhya school of thought. Thus, he chose the Sáṅkhyā Káriká because oriental scholars considered it the ‘oldest work of authority’ on the subject. He also felt that a translation of some of the finest native commentaries should accompany the translation of the text. To quote his own words:

‘I have no desire of denying the valuable results that have been achieved by independent philological criticism, but, in my humble opinion, it cannot be gainsaid that the native scholiasts still remain the best guides we have to the elucidation of difficult Sanskrit works. It is the work of their forefathers which they are interpreting, and they have grown up amidst a living tradition which makes their exegesis all the more authoritative. They are more likely to give us the original doctrine as it was, rather than as it (according to our “superior” notions) ought to be.’ (Preface, Sankhya Philosophy, pp. viii-ix)

Thus Satish Chandra selected the commentaries of Gaudapada Vachaspati and Narayana Tirtha for translation in his book entitled Sankhya Philosophy. In his translation of the commentaries into English, he provided a most faithful and accurate version and also preserved the elegance and fidelity one came across in the original work in Sanskrit. He added brief annotations to explain the text and included an introductory essay on the leading ideas of Kapila’s doctrine to dissolve every possible difficulty that a student unfamiliar with the philosophy of ancient India could face. In the concluding paragraph in the Preface to his Sankhya Philosophy, he addressed the book as a loving friend and wrote: ‘If you prove of assistance to even one single student of Sánkhya Philosophy, you will have achieved your end and I shall have obtained my reward.’ (Ibid., p. xii) Needless to say, Satish Chandra’s Sankhya Philosophy, which was published in 1898, achieved its noble goal and was acclaimed by scholars of international repute. According to Gyanendra Kumar, Satish Chandra’s book had ‘won many to the study of the sources of Hindu thought.’ But the greatest acclamation the book had received was from Prof. Fredrick Max Müller who referred to this work in his book, The Six Systems of Indian Philosophy. On page 318 of The Six Systems of Indian Philosophy, Max Müller wrote:

‘If then I venture to call the Tattva-samâsa the oldest record that has reached us of the Sâmkhya-philosophy, and if I prefer to follow them in the account I give of that philosophy, I am quite aware that many scholars will object, and will prefer the description of the Sâmkhya as given in the Kârikâs and in the Sȗtras. Both of them, particularly the Kârikâs, give us certainly better arranged accounts of that philosophy, as may be seen in the excellent editions and translations which we owe to Professor Garbe, and I may now add to Satish Chandra Banerji, 1898. If, as I believe, the Tattva-samâsa-Sȗtras are older than our Sâmkhya- Sȗtras, their account of the Sâmkhya-philosophy would always possess its peculiar interest from a historical point of view; while even if their priority with regard to the Kârikâs and Sȗtras be doubted, they would always retain their value as showing us in how great a variety the systems of philosophy really existed in so large a country as India.’

Also on page 324 of the same book, Max Müller had written: ‘What native interpreters have made of Buddhi may be seen in all their commentaries, for instance, Vâkaspati-Misra’s commentary on Kârikâ 23: ‘Every man uses first his external senses, then he considers (with the Manas), then he refers the various objects to his Ego (Ahamkâra), and lastly he decides with his Buddhi what to do.’ This may be quite right in a later phase of the development of Prakriti, it cannot possibly be right as representing the first evolution of Prakriti from its chaotic state towards light and the possibility of perception. It could not be the antecedent of Ahamkâra, Manas, and even the Tanmâtras, if it were no more than the act of fixing this or that in thought. I am glad to find that Mr. S. C. Banerji on p. 146 of his work arrives at much the same conclusion.’

Being a Premchand Roychand scholar in English and Philosophy and a lecturer of Hooghly College, it was expected that Satish Chandra would pursue a career in academics. The potentialities he had shown as a scholar were sufficient to prove that he had all the competence and qualities required to be an accomplished professor. But it was not to be so. It was the arena of legal practice where Satish Chandra was destined to make an everlasting mark with his achievements. In 1894 he passed the L.L.B examination from the University of Allahabad and stood — as he had in his B.A. and M.A. examinations — first class first. Despite being a topper he missed out the gold medal (which the university topper usually got) due to shortage of his attendance. Sir Frederick Pollock — whose Tagore Law Lectures on the law of fraud and misrepresentation were attended by Satish Chandra — was well aware of the rare brilliance that the latter possessed. Upset by the Allahabad University’s stand of depriving Satish Chandra of the gold medal, he persuaded the institution to award a special medal to him as a tribute to Satish Chandra’s merit. After obtaining his L.L.B. degree, Satish Chandra shifted to Lucknow where he began his professional career as a Junior of Syed Mahmood in 1894.

Syed Mahmood

The second son of Syed Ahman Khan, the founder of Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College of Aligarh, Syed Mahmood (24 May 1850—8 May 1903) was the first Indian jurist who was appointed to Allahabad High Court and was also the first Muslim to serve as a High Court judge. The years (1887-1894) that he served as the Judge of Allahabad High Court was termed as a lustrous period by Gur Dayal Srivastava who also wrote about him: ‘The years of Mahmood in the Allahabad High Court were the epoch-making years in the history of the Court, for never before concepts in law were faced with more ardent assertions and their vehement repudiations… Mahmood’s enunciations are the light of law and he who follows them shall not walk in darkness. He dazzles not by the reflected light of favourable circumstances but by his own intense incandescence. His great contemporaries may have equalled him but never excelled him. His is not a fleeting niche in the hall of fame his shadows lengthen out to remote posterity. Never was any man so great a stimulus to succeeding generation of lawyers and Judges as Mahmood…’ After his resignation from the Bench of Allahabad High Court, Syed Mahmood resumed his legal practice in the Judicial Commissioner’s Court at Lucknow. He was also a member of the Legislative Council for the North-Western Provinces from 1896 to 1898. 

According to Justice Gyanendra Kumar, Syed Mahmood found a ‘true intellectual companion’ in Satish Chandra. Satish Chandra too, ‘by his acumen and assiduity’ won Mahmood’s heart. But their association was not destined to be a long one. And Satish Chandra himself explains the reason. In an article entitled Syed Mahmood: Recollections and Impressions which was published in The Hindustan Review and Kayastha Samachar soon after Mahmood’s demise in 1903, Satish Chandra recalled:

‘For sometime after his enrolment Mr. Mahmood no doubt had a very busy career as an advocate.  I  had  to  be  constantly at  his  side  and  so  I  know  that  though  his  charges  were  very high,  his  hands  were  always  full  of  work.  But alas! Mr. Mahmood was then not what he once had been.  We all know what lost him his judgeship.  The  same  accursed  habit  lost him  his  practice  too,  and  that  pretty  sharp.  He  had  succeeded in  removing  himself  from  his  father’s  restraining  and  beneficial influence,  and  he  fell  back  to  his  old  course.  His  habits became  irregular,  he  became  incapable  of  sustained  work,  and his  clients  fell  off.  Not  only  were  his  own  habits  irregular,  but they  were  calculated  to  cause  the  greatest  inconvenience  to those  who  had  to  work  with  him.  He would  sometimes  work day  and  night  and  at  other  times  not  work  at  all.  I can  recall many  a  day  when  he  has  positively  refused  to  read  the  brief that  I  had  prepared  for  him,  and  then  on  the  following  morning has  called  me  up  at  4  to  explain  to  him  the  points  in  the  case which  he  had  to  argue  in  Court  that  day.  I  can  also  recall  days when  owing  to  his  erratic  habits  I  could  scarcely  make  time  for my  breakfast,  and  when  he  took  hardly  any  solid  food  at  all; Mr.  Mahmood  had  inherited  an  iron  constitution,  so  it  did  not much  matter  to  him.’

In the same article, Satish Chandra had recounted how, when he had an attack of high fever, Syed Mahmood would come to his room five or six times in the night to feel Satish Chandra’s pulse and stroke his forehead.

Due to the strain caused by the irregularities he had to endure while working under Syed Mahmood, Satish Chandra’s health broke down and he had to leave Lucknow in September 1896. But he continued to have a profound reverence for Syed Mahmood whom he not only admired as a fine jurist but also as a man with liberal views. In his tribute to Syed Mehmood published in The Hindustan Review and Kayastha Samachar, Satish Chandra wrote:

‘The first thing that struck one about Mr. Mahmood was his culture.  He was  not  only  a  well-read  and  well-informed man,  but  he  was  a  thoroughly  cultured  gentleman.  About  his erudition  as  a  lawyer  it  is  not  for  me  to  speak.  I  may,  however, note  in  passing  that  I  have  heard  Mr.  Mahmood  observe  that  a judge  of  fact  is  greater  than  a  judge  of  law,  and  imply  that  he had  been  more  of  a  judge  of  law  than  of  fact.  He  used  to express  the  highest  admiration  for  Dwaraka  Nath  Mitter  and Muthuswami  Iyer,  and  once  told  some  Muhammadan  gentlemen in  my  presence  that  he  was  not  worthy  to  untie  the  latchets of  the  shoes  of  those  two  eminent  judges.  He  possibly  ranked himself  third  in  order  of  merit  among  Indian  judges  who  have graced  any  High  Court  Bench.  But I was  referring  here  to  his attainments  generally  and  not  merely  as  a  lawyer.  He was very  fond  of  poetry  and  would  pass  whole  evenings  in  the  recitation and  criticism  of  choice  Persian  and  English  poems. Among  English  poets  he  was  particularly  fond  of  Gray  and Tennyson,  and  had  himself  composed  some  verses  in  the  characteristic manner  of  these  masters.  He felt  attracted  by  the  Sufi doctrines,  and  was  probably  in  sympathy  with  the  Vedanta philosophy.  He  was  at  any  rate  prepared  to  appreciate  the  full greatness  of  Hindu  thought  and  of  Sanskrit  literature,  and when  at  Mr.  Beck’s suggestion the chair of Sanskrit in the Aligarh  College  was  abolished  it  was  principally  through  Mr. Mahmood’s  efforts  that  the  old  Pundit  was  reinstated.  Mr. Mahmood  wrote  a  bad  hand  and  so  preferred  to  dictate  to  an amanuensis.  This probably accounts to some extent for his prolixity as a writer. Besides, he had a partiality for long rolling sentences and had an eye to style…

‘Mr.  Mahmood  was  a  man  of  liberal  sympathies  and  a  true  friend  of  progress.  He had  the  highest  regard  for  Mr.  A.  M. Bose,  (he  would  fondly  refer  to  him  as “my  tutor  when  I  was an  undergraduate  at  Cambridge”),  and  his  friends  among  the Hindus  were,  I  believe,  quite  as  numerous  as  among  the  Muhammadans.  He certainly  did  not  view  the  Indian  National  Congress with  dread as  some  of  his  co-religionists  who  contribute to  the  Aligarh  Institute  Gazette,  profess  to;  and  I  have  reason to  believe  that,  if  Mr.  Surendra  Nath  Banerjee  and  Mr.  A.  M. Bose  had  approached  him  properly,  he  might  have  presided over  the  annual  deliberations  of  that  national  body.  He  once told  me  at  Lucknow  that  he  was  seriously  thinking  about  this matter,  that  he  had  sympathy  with  the  movement,  and  that  he was  prepared  to  accept  many  of  the  resolutions  adopted  at meetings  of  the  Indian  National  Congress.  Unfortunately  not having  studied  the  science  of  politics  with  any  thoroughness  I do  not  care  to  dabble  in  politics,  and  so  I  did  not  push  the matter  any  further.  But that Mr. Mahmood  was  a  much  more clear-sighted  man  and  had  the  true  cause  of  his  mother-country more  deeply  at  heart  than  many  self-styled  politicians,  both Hindu  and  Mussalman,  who  rush to print or  clamber  up  the platform,  I  have  not  the  least  doubt.  Mr.  Mahmood  was  a proud  man,  he  was  a  hot-tempered  man,  he  had  hit  fixed  ideas (who  has  not?)  but he  had  no  patience  with  hypocrisy,  with pettiness,  with  servility  and  knee-truckling.  I heard  from  father 18  years  ago  that  Mr. Mahmood  used  to  deplore  the  absence  of  a national  leader  in  India  and  expressed  a  hope  that  Bengal  might one  day  give  to  the  country  such  a  leader.  True it is that distance lends enchantment  to  the  view!  There  can  be  no doubt,  however,  that  he  would  have  liked  to  see  perfect  fellowship established  between  Hindus  and  Muhammadans,  and  he would  often  say  to  me,  “You  are  a  Brahman  among  Hindus,  I am  a  Syed  among  Mussalmans;  let  us  join  hands  together  at of  one  kin”…

‘One  word  I  must  say  here  about  Syed  Mahmood’s  liberality and  his  generosity  of  heart.  Nobody,  I  believe,  ever  approached him  with  a  petition  who  did  not  get  more  than  he  wanted. Mr.  Mahmood  seems  to  have  acted  upon  the  theory  that  money was  earned  only  with  the  object  of  being  given  away  and  his cheque-book  was  always  at  almost  everybody’s  service.  Another thing very characteristic about him was his hearty laughter. He  was  a  very  jovial  man,  whose  heart  was  quite  as  large  and as  tender  as  his  intellect  was  acute  and  bright.  You could not have a better and kinder friend.’ (The Hindustan Review and Kayastha Samachar n.s. 7, no. 3, 1903, pp. 439-443)

After leaving Lucknow, Satish Chandra settled down at Allahabad permanently in 1896. A few words about his family would not be irrelevant here. Satish Chandra was married to Sushila Mukherjee and had seven sons (Indu Bhushan, Saradindu Bhushan, Purnendu Bhushan, Nabendu Bhushan, Dibyendu Bhushan, Subhrendu Bhushan and Nirmalendu Bhushan) and three daughters (Protibha, Protima and Usharani). Another child named Fatuk was born to them who passed away quite early.

After serving in the district courts for the first few months since his arrival from Lucknow, Satish Chandra was allowed by Sir John Edge, the Chief Justice of the High Court of the North-Western Provinces, to practise in Allahabad High Court. His initial years in the High Court were of ‘usual waiting’ and ‘practically no briefs’ according to Gyanendra Kumar. However, Satish Chandra utilized this period to study Indian and Continental laws. In 1900 he obtained his Master of Law degree and in the following year he earned his Ph.D in law from the Allahabad University. Gyanendra Kumar observes: ‘These were the years of quiet study for him; but a man of his gifts, even with occasional appearance in the Courts, was unlikely to remain in obscurity. His erudition and vision in law had captured the attention of every one and even the most sceptical of his colleagues were not reluctant to acknowledge his learning. Day by day he was gaining recognition and everyone looked ahead of him a brilliant future.’

The wheel of Fortune turned in Satish Chandra’s favour in 1901 when he was appointed in the Landhaura Raj trial which was proceeding in the trial court of Saharanpur. ‘His performance’, remarks Gyanendra Kumar, ‘in the case struck every eye and he began to be frequently offered engagements in the outstation briefs, particularly in the western districts of the province.’ By 1905 he had build up a large practice both in the first and second appellate sides. By 1907 he was at the front rank of advocates of the Allahabad High Court.

Gyanendra Kumar writes about Satish Chandra: ‘He was inundated not only with the High Court briefs but also with the outstation ones. So unquestionable had become his position at the Bar that even in the Judicial Commissioner’s Court at Lucknow his appearance became quite frequent. Those who possess some recollection of Dr. Satish say that in his deportment he was meek and humble, in his conversation always savoury. He could maintain his bon homie and equanimity even under the gravest provocation. He never over-elaborated his arguments, being averse to display of learning beyond the imperative requirement of the occasion, nor did he make himself abstract to appear profound. He was always easy to follow. In him one could see the combination of exact statement, logical precision and lucid exposition. Rarely was to be found so much of substance so admirably dressed and flavoured, in so small a receptacle. The rapidity with which his point could reach the mind of the Judge conveys how in a few words he could offer the quintessence of the whole theme of his contentions. In his arguments the reason of law always prevailed over the rule of law — Ratio legis est aftima legis — reason of law is the soul of law, and this maxim seemed to guide his approach to law. Some of the cases in which he appeared have attained the rank of causes celebres.’ 

In 1906 Satish Chandra was offered the chair of Tagore Law Professor by the University of Calcutta. Around twelve years ago, he had been a student attending the Tagore Law Lectures of Sir Frederick Pollock and now he was invited to deliver a series of lectures under this much coveted chair.

The series of Tagore Law Lectures was established in 1868 by Prasanna Kumar Tagore, an eminent politician and lawyer, who provided in his will that the Senate of the Calcutta University would appoint a law professor who would be known as Tagore Law Professor and he would ‘reader or deliver, yearly at some place within the town of Calcutta, one complete course of Law Lectures, without charge to the students and other persons who may attend such Lectures.’ (Herbert Cowell, The Hindu Law: Being a Treatise on the Law Administered Exclusively to Hindus by the British Courts in India, 1870, Thacker, Spink and Co., p. 1) The Tagore Law Lectures were delivered by leading jurists and scholars like Rash Behari Ghosh (1875), Sir Gooroodas Banerjee (1878), Julius Jolly (1883), Syed Ameer Ali (1884), Sir John George Woodroffe (1897) and Sir Ashutosh Mookerjee (1898) to name a few.

The theme which Satish Chandra had chosen for his Tagore Law Lectures was the ‘Law of Specific Relief in British India’. Incidentally, his father Abinash Chandra Banerji, was the first commentator in India on the Specific Relief Act. Satish Chandra delivered his lectures at the University Senate House in Calcutta in October and December 1906. Later, he thoroughly revised the entire text of his lectures but retained their original form and after incorporating some new matter published it as a book in September 1909. Dedicated to Abinash Chandra Banerji with the following words: ‘He is not dead whose noble life / Leads thine on high; / To live in hearts we leave behind/ Is not to die’, the book The Law of Specific Relief in British India was so arranged that every Indian case related to Specific Relief was carefully referred to. Also, while citing foreign decisions in his book, Satish Chandra had added references to some of the several volumes of Selections of Cases which had been published in England and America. To make the book self-contained and complete, he had also reprinted the Specific Relief Act with short annotations and supplementary matter for the benefit of the reader as well as the provisions of the Acts of Indian Legislature (passed in 1908) as these bore the subject-matter of his lectures. Satish Chandra’s elder brother, Sushil Chandra Banerji, had helped him to prepare the index of this book.

In the preface to The Law of Specific Relief in British India, Satish Chandra wrote: ‘I have not departed from my original plan of explaining the principles [of Specific Relief] instead of merely digesting the cases… No case has been rejected simply because it is the decision of an unchartered court or does not find a place in the official reports. English cases have been freely cited and American cases have not been ignored. The mufassil lawyer in this country generally fights shy of foreign decisions, and not so very long ago even in some of the High Courts the citation of English precedents were not always appreciated. But with increasing knowledge matters have now improved, though the American case-law, unfortunately, yet remains a terra incognita for most of us. Now, it may be frankly conceded that neither English nor American decisions are binding upon the Indian Courts. But the Specific Relief Act is admittedly based on doctrines of equity jurisprudence which were originally developed in England and are now administered equally by English and American Courts, and some of its provisions have been bodily extracted from the draft Civil Code of New York. The guidance afforded by the decisions of these foreign courts in interpreting and applying the provisions of the Indian Act is therefore of peculiarly valuable character. It is scarcely necessary to emphasize that the essential principles of equity know of no local or temporal conditions, and that no genuine student of law, or of any other subject of study, for the matter of that, can object to light because it comes from one quarter rather than another.’  

Satish Chandra’s The Law of Specific Relief in British India went on to achieve the status of a legal classic and the most authoritative work on Specific Relief. Gyanendra Kumar remarks about this masterpiece that it was not ‘superseded in rank even by the foreign commentaries’ and that: ‘Every principle of equity has been unearthed by him in his work in an endeavour to elucidate with certainty the main principles and the precise extent of the law of Specific Relief.’

G. D. Srivastava, in his article on Satish Chandra entitled Jewel of the Past, observes: ‘… the true meaning of the words “Specific Relief” has been explained by Dr. Satish in his Tagore Law Lectures as “relief in specie” aimed at obtaining the very thing that a party under the Law is entitled to ask for whether it be an act or forbearance. Equity is that exact rule of righteousness or justice which is to be observed between man and man and to law it is as spirit to religion. Equity in English Courts varied with the foot of the Chancellor and comes to be a creature of their vagaries. A system without an anchorage is a system which permits a jurisdiction to be exercised at decoration opens the door for indiscretion in the garb of discretion. The Tagore Law Lectures on Equity gives a lighthouse to the shore of Equity redeeming it from the peril of shipwrecks; it radiates cheer to those who seek the true principles of Equity but are unable to seek it in the maze of uncertainties ascribable to the vagaries and whims of the individuals entrusted with the enforcement.’

He further adds: ‘Dr. Satish has a place in the philosophy of law comparable to that of Roscoe Pound and Cordozo. His Tagore Law Lectures are a triumph of creativity over learning, the colossal value of which lied in carrying the study of Equity into more concrete fields of jurisprudence, seeking not the absolute and the eternal just but the relative just. The pebbles that he gathered on the shores of knowledge have enriched the exchequer of law.’

It is also noteworthy that while presenting the Specific Relief Bill in the Imperial Legislative Council, Lord Hobhouse had remarked that it was Dr. Satish Chandra Banerji who could render the most precise definition to Specific Relief. ‘It would be only true to say that,’ recalls Gyanendra Kumar, ‘as a legal writer, Dr. Satish had few equals and perhaps no superior.’

When The Law of Specific Relief in British India went for a second edition in 1917 (published by R. Cambray & Co., Calcutta), Sir Ashutosh Mookerjee contributed the following foreword to the book:

‘The author of this work, which has now attained the position of a classic in Indian legal literature, was a lawyer and a scholar of consummate ability. The University of Calcutta as well as the University of Allahabad are justly proud of his academic achievements which were of the highest order. A Premchand Roychand Student of the former and a Doctor of Laws of the latter, he established a claim that he had no peer among his contemporaries in either University. In 1906, he was a candidate for the Tagore Professorship in the University of Calcutta and, though he had to count among his competitors at least one distinguished scholar, who has since attained the highest rank in the profession, his success was a foregone conclusion. The judgment of those who advocated his appointment was amply justified by the result. The monumental work, which has now reached its second edition, was, on its first publication, acclaimed in legal circles as a triumph of erudition and research, while the accuracy and lucidity of the exposition of legal principles which throughout characterized the work marked it out as a contribution of enduring value. It has stood the test of criticism remarkably well, and lawyers, who have had recourse to its pages frequently, have not discovered in it any serious flaw or error. Dr. Satischandra Banerjee [sic] passed away in the plenitude of his powers and in the midst of many-sided activities of unquestionable value to his community; and the work before us cannot fail to convince an impartial reader how great has been the loss to legal literature by reason of his untimely death.’  

Some of Satish Chandra’s notable cases were: Chunni Lal vs. Bihari Lal (April, 1907), Banwari Lal and Ors. Vs. Musammat Gopi (July, 1907), Parbhu Dayal vs. Ali Ahmad (November, 1909), Brij Lal Singh vs. Bhawani Singh (June, 1910), Balwant Singh vs. Aman Singh (June, 1910), Amina Begum vs. His Highness the Nawab of Rampur (April, 1911), Lalman Shukul vs. Gauri Dat (April 1913) to name a few. In 1912 Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya appeared with Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru and Satish Chandra in an appeal (No. 249 from Moradabad district) and won against Sunder Lal who was assisted by Motilal Nehru. Justice P.C. Piggot had observed after the proceedings ended: “We have had the advantage of having the question of law argued out at length with an assistance of an array of counsel on both sides exceptionally well qualified, if I may take the liberty of saying so, to assist the court in arriving at a correct conclusion.”

K. L. Mishra has recounted that Satish Chandra and Kailash Nath Katju against one another before a full Bench of Sir Shah Muhammad Sulaiman, Lal Gopal Mukherjee and Niamatullah ‘presented a sight and an unforgettable experience and if the gods were near about they would come to see and hear.’

By 1910, Satish Chandra was counted among the leaders of the Vakil’s section of the Allahabad High Court Bar which, since the establishment of Allahabad High Court, had occupied a most esteemed place in the Bar of India. In those days, despite not being counted as a ‘presidency town’ (a status enjoyed by Calcutta, Bombay and Madras due to which the High Courts in these three cities enjoyed ample publicity about its judicial proceedings as well as their legal talents), the Vakil Bar of Allahabad High Court had earned a formidable reputation for its ‘enormous learning and wonderful forensic ability’. Dr. Kailas Nath Katju (the Governor of Orissa and West Bengal; Union Minister of Home Affairs and Defence and Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh) who practised at the Allahabad High Court in his early years has recounted: ‘One other rather curious feature of the Allahabad Vakil Bar was that the names of two Vakils began to be linked together in public discussions of those times and became almost household words in the legal world of Uttar Pradesh, Pandit Ajodhya Nath and Pandit Bishambhar Nath, Pandit Sunder Lal and Pandit Moti Lal, Dr. Satish Chandra Banerji and Dr. Tej Bahadur Sapru… These couples seldom appeared with each other on the same side. They continuously opposed each other not only in the High Court but also in the district courts throughout Uttar Pradesh.’ (Some Judges and Lawyers Whom I knew)

S. P. Sinha, former Judge of Allahabad High Court who later joined the Supreme Court of India as a senior advocate recounts that Tej Bahadur Sapru’s entry in the legal profession was ‘heralded by a scholastic career of unusual brilliance, second only to that of Dr. Satish Chandra Banerji.’ And he further adds:  ‘To a class all his own belonged Dr. Satish Chandra Banerji, who deserves more than a passing notice. He was an erudite and profound lawyer who had learnt his early lessons in law at the feet of Syed Mahmood, an imperishable name in the legal world… The Universities of Allahabad and Calcutta do not record another instance of a student sitting for his B.A. at both the Universities the same year and securing a first class first with honours in English literature at both. History repeated itself the next year when he appeared for M.A. at both. A distinction like this is unique in the annals of education anywhere in the world. Lord Lansdowne, the then Viceroy, as the Chancellor of the Calcutta University referred to his achievements in terms of the highest commendation.’ (The High Court: My Reminiscences)

Satyendra Nath Verma observes in his article, History of the High Court Bar Association, that in those days the trio of Tej Bahadur Sapru, Dr. Satish Chandra Banerji and Dr. Sachchidanand Sinha was ‘the object of universal admiration for their learning and culture.’

G. D. Srivastava recounts in his article on Satish Chandra: ‘Perhaps all those who had seen his performance in the Courts are no longer living but then the legacy of their recollections about Dr. Satish still survives and they portray him as an angel too full of milk of human kindness, mercy and forgiveness. His bon homie and equanimity never suffered a wreck even in the gravest provocation. A person whose religion is humility is apt to be averse to display of learning or turgid rhetoric and this is what epitomizes Dr. Satish of his performance in the court. The receptacles of law reports give us a glint of his exposition of law and it is the reason of law than rule of law that marks his approach to its interpretation. The evil on which he tested a proposition of law was that of the basic postulates of jurisprudence.’ 

An interesting anecdote about Satish Chandra and Munshi Ram Prasad, a renowned lawyer of the Allahabad High Court, can be found in an article authored by Sambhu Prasad:

‘Munshi Ram Prasad assisted by my father argued a heavy First Appeal from Aligarh for the appellants and convinced the Judges in his favour. Mr. Conlan, replying for the respondent, cited in his favour an English authority. Sunder Lal had brought out the case, after great deal of research. Conlan succeeded in almost turning the scale. My father as though instinctively, rushed up to Dr. Satish Chandra Banerji, who though still very young, had made his mark for scholarship. Satish gave father a later English authority dissenting from the earlier one. The table turned and Munshi Ram Prasad won. The client paid a heavy amount on account of what is … called shukrana. Munshi Ram Prasad directed father to pass on the entire amount to young Satish. The latter declined, but was ultimately prevailed upon to accept it. I know of only [one] such instance. Placed in similar circumstances, Mr. W. C. Bannerji gave the entire sum to a young and obscure junior, who subsequently rose to unattainable heights, Satyendra Prasanna Sinha, later Lord Sinha.’

Despite being a very busy lawyer, Satish Chandra had a very active public life. Satyendra Nath Verma has recalled that on Sundays and other holidays students from the Allahabad University would visit Satish Chandra’s residence at 13 Edmonstone Road for the solution of their academic difficulties. ‘Even in the midst of the preparation of a heavy first appeal, he used to receive students with kindness and used to help them in their academic problems.’ ‘He was probably the greatest Shakespearean of his time in India and was recognised as such even by Professor Dowden,’ recounts S. P. Sinha.

Satish Chandra was an elected member of the All-India Congress Committee from 1910 to 1912 representing the United Provinces. He was elected one of the Secretaries of the Reception Committee of the 25th Indian National Congress along with Pandit Baldev Ram Dave, Nawab Sadiq Ali Khan, Dr. Tej Bahadur Sapru, Iswar Saran, Rai Braj Narain Gurtu, Dr. Desraj Ranjit Singh and Lalit Mohan Banerji when its annual session took place at Allahabad in December 1910. The report of the Allahabad session of the Congress Committee notes (pp. iv-v):

‘Of all the resolutions, perhaps the most important, certainly the most troublesome, was the one which dealt with Legislative Council Regulations. The preceding session at Lahore expressed its strong disapproval of communal representation by separate electorates. Should this be repeated or not was the question. A number of delegates was opposed to the re-affirmation, but there were others equally convinced that it should be reaffirmed. The Subjects Committee anxiously debated the question at three sittings, and the resolution as actually passed embodied a compromise between opposing views which satisfied almost everybody. It recognised the necessity of fair and adequate representation of the Mahomedan and other communities where they were in a minority, but disapproved the existing regulations under which this was secured by means of separate electorates. This was the portion of the resolution which gave rise to contention. Everybody agreed that in other respects the regulations were seriously defective and required modification in order that the objects of the Indian Councils Act of 1909 might be truly given effect to. The resolution was in the capable hands of Dr. Satish Chandra Banerji, and his speech and the speeches of his seconder and supporters, Dr. Tej Bahadur Sapru, Rao (now Dewan) Bahadur M. Adinarayana Iyah and Nawab Sadiq Ali Khan should be read.’

What follows is the speech of Satish Chandra on the Council Reform Regulations:

‘“While recognising the necessity of providing for a fair and adequate representation in the Legislative Councils for the Muhammadan and other communities where they are in a minority, this Congress disapproves the Regulations promulgated last year to carry out this object by means of separate electorates, and in particular it urges upon the Government the justice and expediency of modifying the regulations framed under the Indian Councils Act of 1909, before another election comes on, so as to remove anomalous distinctions between different sections of His Majesty’s subjects in the matter of franchise and the qualifications of candidates and the arbitrary disqualifications and restrictions for candidates seeking election to the Council. The Congress also urges the modification of the regulations, where necessary, relating to the composition of non-official majority in the Provincial Councils, so as to render them effective for practical purposes.”

‘Mr. President, my sisters, and my brothers, — Not many words are needed from me, I believe, to commend to your acceptance the proposition I have the privilege of placing before you. You are all familiar with the history of Lord Morley’s reform scheme. It was a measure of constitutional reform conceived in the catholic spirit of true states-manship, and confessedly devised to allay discontent in the country, to promote good-will between the rulers and the ruled. It was an earnest endeavour to redeem the pledges given by Queen Victoria of blessed memory fifty-two years ago, and a genuine attempt to grant to the children of the soil an effective voice in the administration of their motherland. The country hailed the promised reforms with delight, and my illustrious countryman who presided two years ago over the deliberations of this body at Madras thought that the words of the poet had come true —

“The clouds you so much dread

Are big with mercy and shall break

In blessings on your head.” (cheers).

‘But even then there was an apprehension in the minds of many of us that there were forces yet to be reckoned with, and our jubilations might, therefore, prove to be premature. It was felt that the rules and regulations which had to be yet framed by the men on the spot must make or mar the scheme. Subsequent experience has justified these fears, and even the sceptic must now be convinced of the terrible power that the man on the spot wields. (cheers). Bitter was the disappointment caused by the rules and regulations which were eventually framed. The scheme, it was felt, had been wrecked by prejudices which obscure the issue, and which incapacitate even honest and honourable men from comprehending in all their bearings the large principles which may be at stake. I have said that bitter was the disappointment caused by the rules and regulations actually framed. The vision of the promised land was found to be of no substance than dreams are made of, and the most optimistic amongst us realised with a pang that it was fading and might possibly leave not a rack behind. At the Lahore Congress an earnest appeal was made by the President for a re-consideration of the rules and regulations, and a resolution was adopted unanimously giving expression in strong language to the profound grief at blasted hopes which weighed upon the minds of the delegates assembled there. To-day we find the situation in no way altered, and I have no doubt you will agree with me in thinking that it is our duty as responsible citizens of the Empire, who realise the blessings of the Pax Britannica and consider the well-being of the motherland to be a concern of supreme importance, to urge upon the Government, with all the fervor and solemnity we can command, the imperative necessity of revising and remodelling the rules and regulations in the same liberal spirit in which the original scheme was conceived.

‘These rules and regulations were acutely discussed at the Lahore Congress by men who were and are in a position to speak, and they have been ably criticised in the press and elsewhere. I, therefore, do not propose to take up your time by attempting a detailed examination of these rules and regulations. I desire only to say a word or two about some of the principles which underlie these rules and regulations, principles which we deem to be not only erroneous but mischievous, and which we must repudiate. One of these principles is that of representation based on religious differences. In our Magna Charta Her Gracious Majesty solemnly promised to abjure the consideration of any difference in race, colour, caste or creed. We hold fast to that pledge, and we believe that neither communal representation nor separate electorates can do any of us any good. As has been repeatedly said on this platform and elsewhere, we are Indians first and Hindus or Mahomedans or anything else that you please only afterwards. Sir Syed Ahmed said, speaking of the two great communities, Hindus and Mahomedans, only, that they were like the two eyes of a fair maiden, “if you injure the one you injure the other.” (cheers). As the offspring of the same mother our interests are identical, and “united we stand, divided we fall.” Anything that is calculated to accentuate our differences and to divide us from one another can but bring about a disruption of the national unity which is our ideal, — the goal after which this Congress has been striving for a quarter of a century. (cheers). Every thoughtful child of the soil must, therefore, condemn this principle in unmeasured and unequivocal terms. The general electorate in the United Provinces has time after time returned Mahomedan candidates in the past, and there is absolutely no ground for believing that they will not do so in future. (‘Hear, hear’).

‘Another vicious principle is that of property qualification. In this historic land of ancient civilisation the true aristocracy has always been of intellectual and moral worth, and not of wealth. (cheers). ‘Plain living and high thinking’ is the motto our forefathers have believed in, and we, degenerate descendants though we are, still refuse to believe in the so-called virtues of sordid pelf or dirt. Regulations which do not permit the election to the Councils of men who lead the public opinion in the country, simply because they do not own and possess broad acres or belong to a favoured community, or are not members of small bodies like municipal and district boards, no thinking man can accept (cheers). A regulation that limits the field of choice in this way or by such restrictions is vicious at its root, inasmuch as it does not permit the return to the Councils of the best men, of the men who will be able to do real work and effectively help the Government in the administration of the country.

‘I do not for one moment suggest that minorities should not be adequately represented, that their interests should not be carefully protected and safeguarded. It is not only right and fair, it is absolutely necessary, that this should be done. But has this been done? That is a straight question which admits but of one answer. All the minorities in the country have not been either fairly or adequately represented in the Councils, and the grievance is that some have been accorded a preferential and differential treatment. Fine phrases cannot alter facts.

‘Brothers and sisters, I should like to put another straight question. Lord Morley proposed that there should be a non-official majority in the Provincial Councils. Has this end been really achieved in all the Provincial Councils? (Cries of ‘no’) Figures merely on paper are apt to mislead. 

‘I do not propose to discuss the rules and regulations any further. I have mentioned by way of illustration a few matters as to which I believe among men, who can think and who do think and who have the true good of the country at heart, there can be no difference of opinion. We are deeply grateful to Lord Morley and Lord Minto for the epoch-making measure of constitutional reform which they did so much to inaugurate. But in so far as this measure was intended to satisfy the legitimate aspirations of the natives of the country and to associate them closely and effectively in the practical everyday work of administration, the rules and regulations which have been framed by the men on the spot have effectually defeated that noble intention, that glorious object. The practical result of these rules and regulations has been to give effect to the very features of Sir Harold Stuart’s scheme which were so widely condemned. In some respects these rules and regulations have gone back even upon those framed under the Indian Councils Act of 1892. The educated classes in the country, those who are in a position to find out by personal experience or intercourse the tender spot where the shoe pinches, and to voice the genuine grievances of the inarticulate masses, have received a most unmerited, a most impolitic, set-back. On the contrary, the rules have made it possible for councillors to be returned, who in point of ignorance may possibly be said to represent the large illiterate classes, (laughter), but who, not being able to follow the deliberations in the Councils, cannot possibly assist the Government in either the practical or the theoretical work of administration.

‘My sisters and my brothers, the Government resolutions accompanying these rules and regulations said that they would be modified in the light of the experience that would be gained in their working. My faith is implicit in the dispensations of Providence. My faith is large in the sense of justice and honesty of purpose which inspire the British people. I, therefore, believe that, upon a proper representation of our cause, errors are bound to be mended sooner or later, and in that belief I commend this proposition to your acceptance.’

Satish Chandra attended the Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress as a delegate in December 1911. He was re-elected as a member of the All-India Congress Committee in December 1914 during its twenty-ninth session held at Madras. In 1914 he was elected as the President of the United Provinces Congress Committee. He was one of the secretaries of the first United Provinces (Political) Conference and the President of its seventh session. He had also presided over a session of Industrial Conference. In 1914 he was made the Chairman of the Committee of the unofficial famine relief services commenced by the Servants of India Society.

Satish Chandra played a pivotal role in starting the Indian People, a nationalist newspaper of Allahabad which afterwards evolved into The Leader. He served the newspaper as the Chairman of its Board of Directors. He edited — along with Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru — the twelfth volume of The Allahabad Law Journal comprising ‘Reports of Cases Decided by the Privy Council and The High Court of Judicature for the North-Western Provinces’ which was published in 1914.

Satish Chandra and the Benares Hindu University:

When preparations were being made to establish the Benares Hindu University, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya made Satish Chandra one of the founder Trustees of the institution along with Sir Rameshwar Singh Bahadur (ruler of Darbhanga), Maharaja Manindra Chandra Nundy of Cossimbazar, N. Subbarao of Madras, V.P. Madhava Rao of Bangalore, Sir Vithaldas Damodar Thakersey of Bombay, Harchandrai Vishindas of Karachi, Rao Bahadur R. N. Mudholkar of Amraoti, Rai Bahadur Lala Lalchand of Lahore, Rai Bahadur Harichand of Multan, Rai Ramsaran Das Bahadur of Lahore, Raja Madho Lal of Benares, Motichand of Benares, Govind Das of Benares, Raja Rampal Singh of Rai Bareilly, Ganga Prasad Verma of Lucknow, Thakur Surajbaksha Singh of Sitapur, Sukhbir Singh of Muzaffarnagar, Mahamahopadhyaya Pandit Adityaram Bhattacharya of Allahabad and Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru. He was also made a member of the first Committee of Management of the Hindu University Society which had Sir Rameshwar Singh Bahadur as the President, Sir Gooroodas Banerji, Annie Besant and Dr. Rash Behari Ghosh as the Vice-Presidents and the likes of Maharaja Manindra Chandra Nundy, Brajendra Kishore Roy Chowdhury, Justice Ashutosh Chaudhuri, Dr. Radha Kumud Mukerji, Prof. Benoy Kumar Sarkar, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru and fifty-one other distinguished members who were the cream of Indian intelligentsia. Afterwards, a committee was formed by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya with Satish Chandra as the Chairman to draft the constitution of the proposed institution. Accordingly a meeting was convened at the residence Sir Sunder Lal (a famous advocate of Allahabad High Court who became the first Indian Vice-Chancellor of the Allahabad University and was reappointed to the said office twice in 1912 and 1916) situated at Elgin Road on 14 January 1914 to discuss the document. This meeting was attended by Motilal Nehru, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Dr. Sachchidanand Sinha and Satish Chandra Banerji who chaired the meeting and was the first signatory of the constitution of Benares Hindu University. As is evident from Satish Chandra’s speech delivered at the Allahabad session of the Indian National Congress in December 1910, he had a secular outlook. He strongly believed that an academic institution should have an atmosphere where no differentiation based on religion should exist. And this outlook was reflected in the constitution drafted for the Benares Hindu University which proclaimed: ‘all colleges, schools and institutions of the University… shall be open to students of all creeds and classes’.

Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya

The Benares Hindu University Bill was introduced in the Imperial Legislative Council on 22 March 1915. The foundation stone of the institution was laid on 4 February 1916 by Lord Charles Hardinge (the then Governor-General and Viceroy of India) and Sir Sunder Lal was made its first Vice-Chancellor. But Satish Chandra was not physically present to witness his efforts behind the Benares Hindu University fecundate.

Last days:

In 1915 we find numerous professional and social responsibilities resting on Satish Chandra’s shoulder. He had begun to revise his book The Law of Specific Relief in British India as the publishers wanted to bring out a new edition of it. He wanted to change the form of his lectures ‘to that of a homogeneous treatise in the style of the well-known classics on this subject in England and America.’(Preface to the Second Edition, The Law of Specific Relief in British India p. ix)

In May 1915 Satish Chandra was elected to the Legislative Council as a representative of the Allahabad University of which he was a fellow. The people of United Provinces had expected him to be a ‘tower of strength’ to them in the Legislative Council. But neither his countrymen nor he himself knew that the lamp of his earthly life was about to extinguish. ‘With a feeble constitution he broke under the pressure of work,’ observed Gyanendra Kumar. In his article written in memory of Syed Mahmood, Satish Chandra had admitted that his health had broken down while he was working with the former at Lucknow. He had also mentioned that the publication of the first edition of The Law of Specific Relief in British India got delayed owing to his ‘repeated and protracted attacks of illness.’ It was a known fact that he was suffering from diabetes but little did anyone realize that his condition was worsening.

On the afternoon of 30 May 1915, Satish Chandra made his last public appearance when he spoke at the Special Provincial Conference held at Mayo Hall. On 1 June, he argued his last case before Justice Rafique and Justice Banerji. On that very day he told a colleague that he was leaving for Nainital (where he had a house) within two or three days. But his plan to visit Nainital had to be cancelled as for the next eight days he suffered from a boil and attendant fever. On the night of 7 June blood poisoning took place in his body. On the morning of Tuesday, 8 June 1915, Dr. Satish Chandra Banerji breathed his last at his residence at 13 Edmonstone Road. He was only twelve days away from his forty-fourth birthday.

The Tribune published the news of Satish Chandra’s demise on 10 June 1915 and reported: ‘The Allahabad papers report the stunning news of the sudden death of the Hon. Dr. Satish Chandra Banerji… The end came with startling suddenness… Even at Allahabad few knew that anything was serious with his health. What a fateful life was his! Dr. Banerji was one of those great Indians who by their intellectual eminence had been early marked out for greatness. But he came to distinction as a Premchand Roychand scholar. He was a profound scholar, deep thinker and fascinating writer. Great as all these gifts were they were nothing beside the incomparable qualities of his heart. He was intensely religious and rigidly orthodox.’

The Allahabad Law Journal published a life-sketch of Satish Chandra (which was reprinted by the Indian Opinion on 11 August 1915) listing his achievements as a student, lawyer and writer and his greatness as a man and a scholar. The writer of the obituary also added that Satish Chandra “took an active part in the public life of these provinces and his influence was of the most wholesome and elevating character. His country never made any call on his high talents or open purse to which he did not willingly and generously respond. Indeed his intimate friends alone knew how generous he was. Such high character and unalloyed patriotism could not go without recognition… Not only did he fill a large and honourable space in the public life of the province but he also enjoyed the affection of his countrymen such as falls to the lot of few public men… If such was his career as a scholar, advocate and public man, he was even greater in private life. Spotlessly pure, of a meek and gentle disposition, ever ready to help the needy, with deep religious convictions, with unbounded courtesy for friends and strangers, a loyal friend and colleague, he was above everything else a gentleman. Such is the man whom we mourn to-day in common with his bereaved family. But though dead, his memory will live long, and his example will inspire the rising generation of his countrymen as that of a life of noble pursuit, high purpose, and great moral force.’  

If one goes through the obituaries of Satish Chandra and tributes paid to him published in The Leader and other contemporary newspapers, one would realize that ‘no man was so sincerely mourned as he’.

Both Satish Chandra and Tej Bahadur Sapru were competitors at the Allahabad High Court but in real life they were close friends. Not only did Tej Bahadur Sapru pay to his departed friend a rich tribute by authoring The Late Dr. Satish Chandra Banerji: An Appreciation which was published in July 1915 but he also described Satish Chandra as ‘a scholar every inch’ in a condolence meeting organized in his memory. In this same meeting, he had remarked about Satish Chandra: ‘Whatever he touched, he made his own. Without meaning any disrespect to anybody or casting any reflection upon any body, so far as Dr. Satish Chandra’s scholarship alone was concerned, he had not left a successor behind. And so far as general scholarship, particularly in philosophy and literature was concerned, Indians might well thank their stars that they had a man like Dr. Satish among them who raised the standard of their reputation in the eyes of foreigners.’

Tej Bahadur Sapru

Also in the same condolence meeting, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya had said about Satish Chandra: ‘Men of Dr. Satish Chandra’s nature, ability and scholarship were rare in this country.’

While recalling Satish Chandra’s career in an article published in 1966, Justice Gyanendra Kumar had noted: ‘The career of Dr. Satish is meteoric, not merely an event, but a portent. From his joining the High Court in 1896 to his death in 1915 not even two decades had intervened and in such a brief span he attained what most of us would not in our whole lifetime… The history of the Allahabad Bar has not a more spotless character to commemorate; incorruptible in integrity, modest without diffidence, learned without vanity, independent and dignified without asperity or pride. Distinction is the consequence, not the object of great minds; the truly great strive more for the approbation of God, and such was Dr. Satish. The light that shone through the frame of clay is not extinct, it still radiates through the pages of his Tagore Law lectures.’

Satyendra Nath Verma has called Satish Chandra a ‘jewel’ of the Allahabad High Court and had remarked: ‘If he had not died at the early age…the history of this Bar might have been different.’

As a man Satish Chandra was undoubtedly great but his achievements were even greater. His life is a testimony of the fact that one need not live for a hundred years to leave behind imperishable achievements. A brief lifespan, if well-utilized, can become vast qualitatively and leave behind glories which Time would not be able to fade even after a hundred years. People have forgotten many of his famous peers, contemporaries and successors but nothing could obliterate the name and fame of Satish Chandra because his achievements have immortalized him. Just as the fragrance of an incense stick continues to permeate a room even after it has extinguished completely Dr. Satish Chandra Banerji lives on as an ever-flowing stream of inspiration.


About the author: Born on 13th October 1984 to Jayanta and Sanghamitra Banerjee (eminent actress of Bengali cinema), Anurag Banerjee is an award-winning poet, essayist, researcher, biographer and translator. A former faculty at NexGen Institute of Business and Technology, Kolkata and Sri Aurobindo Centre for Advanced Research (SACAR), Pondicherry, he established the Overman Foundation, one of India’s leading research institutes dedicated to the ideals of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, at the age of twenty-five in March 2010. He has lectured in several national symposiums and seminars organized by Sri Aurobindo Centre for Advanced Research, Sri Aurobindo Bhavan (Kolkata), National Council of Education and Jadavpur University and authored more than two hundred research papers which have been published in anthologies and journals of repute. He is a Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre Trust which runs the “Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir” School at New Alipore, Kolkata. In April 2011, he received the prestigious ‘Nolini Kanta Gupta Smriti Puraskar’ awarded by ‘Srinvantu’ and Sri Aurobindo Bhavan, Kolkata. In August 2015 he was awarded the ‘Apurva Pal Smriti Puraskar’ (Sri Aurobindo Puraskar) by Chandernagore Barasat Gate Cultural Association. In December 2021 he received the ‘Shiksha Bharati Award’ from the Indian Achievers’ Forum ‘in Recognition of Outstanding Professional Achievement & Contribution in Nation Building’. He is a great-great-grandson of Dr. Satish Chandra Banerji.

Acknowledgements: The author would like to express his gratitude to late Arun Kumar Banerji for the Banerji Family Tree and Dr. Suresh Chandra Banerji’s photograph and Pradipta Kumar Banerji and Arnab Kumar Banerji (Advocate, Allahabad High Court) for the photographs of Dr. Satish Chandra Banerji and Abinash Chandra Banerji respectively.


4 Replies to “Dr. Satish Chandra Banerji: The Doyen of Allahabad High Court—A Sesquicentennial Tribute by Anurag Banerjee

  1. Was very impressed to read this. I applaud the intensive research that has gone into this project. Learned a lot of our history that I was not aware of. Thank you Anurag for doing this work.

  2. Dear Anurag,
    After a very busy month of december, I am back to a mood where I can reconnect with my favorite readings among which “The Overman Foundation” is actually on the top, with all that is concerning Mother and Sri Aurobindo. Being a lawyer myself in Quebec, Canada (though on an unmistakably smaller scale than your illoustrious great-great grandfather), I was completely dazzled by all his accomplishments in the field of law in such a brief period of time! I understand better now where do your incomparable energy comes from and why so many of your publications are turned towards certain historico-juridical events (like the trial of Alipore, for example). Again, a big big thanks for your work, which I am sure is appreciated all over the world.

    I wish you a very auspicious 2022 to you and your family. May Mother’s protection be with you all.

  3. Dr satish chandra banerjee was my Grandfathers chachaji..my grand DAD was Dr rabindranath banerji. He was the .family physician to Motilal nehru ji.
    And Rai bahadur then himself…
    Plus Hon capt in the Indian army and a roaring medical practice….his son was my father Justice amitav banerji..Chief justice allahabad high court and later Chairman CAT..Central admin tribunal N delhi GOI… that’s the family tree

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