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The curious case of Baharul Islam – From lawyer to Congress MP, then judge and then Congress MP again

Baharul Islam is a must-read chapter when it comes to a discussion about ruling parties picking former judges for various constitutional posts. He has set a rare example in which a Rajya Sabha MP went on to become a judge in the Supreme Court and then come back as an MP in the upper house.

As Abdul Nazeer – a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India – has recently been appointed as the governor of Andhra Pradesh, a controversy has started around retired judges being appointed to constitutional posts like the governor, etc. It is therefore necessary to take an account of a Congress leader who was sent to Rajya Sabha as an MP, after which he was appointed as a judge. As he retired from his tenure of judgeship, he was given a ticket to Lok Sabha by the Congress party. This is the curious case of former Supreme Court justice Baharul Islam.

Baharul Islam was a lawyer before joining politics

Baharul Islam was born on 1st March 1918 in the Kamroop district of Assam. His primary education was completed in a local school and he attended Cotton College in Guwahati. After this, he went to Aligarh Muslim University for his law studies. He started working as an advocate at the Assam High Court in 1951 while his practice as a Supreme Court Lawyer started in 1958. Meanwhile, in 1956, Baharul Islam joined the Indian National Congress which marked the onset of his political career.

Baharul Islam was sent to Rajya Sabha

In 1962, Congress sent Baharul Islam as an MP in Rajya Sabha. He completed his first term as a lawmaker in 1968 after which the grand old party reelected him as a Rajya Sabha member. He continued to work as an MP till 1972. In 1972, he jumped from the legislative arm to the judicial arm of the Indian republic. But later developments suggest that it was not Baharul Islam who jumped. It was rather the Congress ecosystem that made him move from one office to the other, with added rewards in later stages for being loyal in earlier stages.

Baharul Islam worked as a judge for a decade

On 20th January 1972, Baharul Islam was appointed as the judge of the Assam and Nagaland High Court which is now known as the Gauhati High Court. On 11th March 1979, he became the acting chief justice of this High Court and continued as the chief justice of the High Court from 7th July 1979 until he retired on 1st March 1980.

On December 4th, 1980, he was appointed to the Supreme Court of India, which was unusual because a retired judge is not often elevated to the Supreme court. The convenient utilization of the systems did not stop here. He resigned as the judge of the Supreme Court of India on 12th January 1983. What followed was his second innings as a politician.

Baharul Islam in parliament again

Congress wanted to field Baharul Islam who was now the former justice of the Supreme Court of India from the Barpeta constituency of Assam. But later he was sent to Rajya Sabha again. This marked the second political innings of the lawyer-cum-politician-turned-judge. His is a must-read chapter when it comes to a discussion about ruling parties picking former judges for various constitutional posts. He has set a rare example in which a Rajya Sabha MP went on to become a judge in the Supreme Court and then come back as an MP in the upper house.

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