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Kazi Syed Karimuddin : Tribute to a great legend 

By Moin Qazi

Vidarbha has been a fertile soil for many social reformers and intellectuals. It has played an active role in the nation’s destiny and its social, cultural and political rivulets have flown into and enriched the great sea of national civilization. One such luminary who emerged from Yavatmal was Kazi Syed Karimuddin. He rose to be a great criminal lawyer of the region and played a critical role in the drafting of the Indian constitution.

Kazi Karimuddin was born on 19 July 1899, at Darwah in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra to Kazi Syed Nasiruddin and Dayanath Begum. He had his school education at Mohamedan High School, Amravati. He graduated from Morris College, Nagpur and obtained his postgraduate degree in economics from Aligarh Muslim University. He later qualified for law.  He married Qadirunnisa Begum (May 24, 1926) .
Kazi Karimuddin had an active presence in social, legal, judicial and political circles in Yavatmal. He was Vice Chairman, District Council (1924-28) Sub-judge (1928-31) President, Anjuman Middle School (1932-37) and Public Prosecutor (1939-45). He was member of Constituent Assembly (1947-50) and of Madhya Pradesh Assembly (1947-52) (at that time Madhya Pradesh was known as the Central Province). Following that, he was a member of the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of the Indian Parliament) from 1954 to 1958. He died on 14 September 1977.

Kazi Karimuddin moved an amendment in the Constituent Assembly on the lines of American Constitution to make right to privacy a fundamental right but Dr. B.R. Ambedkar gave it only reserved support. Article 20 provides that no person shall be convicted of any offence except for violation of a law in force at the time of the commission of the act; that no person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once; and that no person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.

Endowed with rare forensic skills, Kazi Karimuddin’s vast experience and insights gave him an uncanny knack for unraveling the anatomy and pathology of crimes. He was always apprehensive of the pervasive scope of the intrusive lens of the state as well as private agents. He considered privacy a vital constituent of a healthy constitutional polity since India’s large population of minorities had become vulnerable due to the emerging communal situation. He wanted that the following be added as clause (4) in article 20: “ The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause supported by oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched and the person or things to be seized.”

He said: “This is very important amendment. You will be pleased to find that this finds place as article 4 in the American Constitution and in the Irish Constitution there are clauses (2) and (5) which are similar and in the German Constitution there are article 114 and 115 on the same lines. In the book of Dr. Ambedkar—Minorities and States—on page 11, item No. 10, a similar provision has been made. What is the situation in India today? …Arrests are made without warrant and searches without justification. We are being governed by lawless laws and there is no remedy for the redress of grievances on account of unauthorized arrests and searches.”
Dr. Ambedkar pointed out that this clause was already in the Criminal Procedure Code, and was therefore a part of Indian law, but also acknowledged that it may be desirable in the interests of personal liberty to ‘place these provisions beyond the reach of the legislature’. Despite Ambedkar’s support the amendment was negatived.

However the Karimuddin amendment in the Constituent Assembly re-emerged through the process of judicial engineering in Kharak Singh v. State of U.P where the court discussed the relationship between surveillance and personal liberty (personal liberty being guaranteed by the Constitution) and found that unauthorised intrusion into a person’s home would interfere with her right to personal liberty. The court recognised “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects” and declared that their right against unreasonable searches and seizures was not to be violated.

Kazi Karimuddin was also the key persona in the deliberations on the Uniform Civil Code in the Constituent Assembly. He argued: “The people outside and the members of the Constituent Assembly must realize that a Muslim regards the personal law as part of the religion and I really assure you that there is not a single Muslim in the country—at least I have not seen one—who wants a change in the mandatory provision of religious rights and personal laws, and if there is anyone who wants a change in the mandatory principle, or religion as a matter of personal law, then he cannot be a Muslim.”

Kazi Karimuddin had three sons and five daughters. Though he was a staunch opponent of the UCC, he was a very progressive and forward-looking Muslim who educated his children at the country’s premier educational institutions. Since Yavatmal did not have adequate facilities for higher learning, he sent his daughters to Hyderabad to pursue postgraduate courses at Osmania University which was a renowned educational hub for women. His sons-in-law also excelled in their respective fields: Nizamuddin Ahmed (LLM) was trained in UK in Labour Law and retired as Deputy Commissioner- Labour, Maharashtra; Syed Mukassir Shah was former Chairman of the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council;  Justice M.M. Qazi was former Chairman of the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal and retired judge of Bombay High Court; and Dr Mirza Basheer Baig was an orthopedic surgeon (FRCS) in UK.

The life of Kazi Karimuddin serves as a beacon to modern day Muslims who are now at the most challenging crossroads in history.

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