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JUSTICE CORNELIUS: A Catholic Judge of a Muslim Polity

Justice Cornelius

Justice Cornelius, A Catholic Judge of a Muslim polity. It is incredibly dynamic to witness in a Muslim polity that in such prominent positions non-muslim served for quite a long time. Looping justice Cornelius in this situation when he served for almost two decades at the pinnacle of our judiciary system. Here are his unbeatable contributions!  

Early Life of  Justice Cornelius

Cornelius was born in May 1903 in a Hindu family. His father Israel Jacob Cornelius was a professor of math at Holkar College in the princely state of Indore. His father’s ancestors were Naikor Landords who were Hindus and served in the military of the Madras Presidency under the East India Company. 

His grandfather Perayya Kait Pillay bravely fought the conquest of Burma by the British at the end of the 19th century. After the struggle, he resided in the central provinces and became a teacher. At the time of the apostles, he converted to Christianity and take away the surname of Cornelius which later runs in the family. 

Afterward, when he married in 1931, he came across Islam due to his better half Muslim lineage. Due to his life’s utmost experiences, he was enlightened by three major religions.   


He completed his early study at St. Peter’s College, Agra. Later, he did graduation in 1920 from Allahabad University and Selwyn College, Cambridge. He did his bachelor’s in mathematics and build a bind with law faculty as well. There he worked as a research associate and achieve a scholarship to pursue his further education abroad.

He went to UK’s Cambridge University and attended Selwyn College to study law. In 126 he completed his LLM in law and justice and wrote a thesis on western law. He returned to India and Passed the Indian civil service exam. Thus, joined the Department of Law of the Government of Punjab as an assistant commissioner. He initiated his judicial career in the Lahore High court in 1943.


His endless services are infinite and quite notable in the stature of Pakistan. He was an activist in the Pakistan movement and stood side-by-side with Jinnah for the separation of Muslims due to the ill-treatments done by Britishers and some congress members. He assisted Jinnah in drafting Pakistan Resolution by adding legalities.


His activism grew strong and deeper after accepting a legal position in the Punjab government, where he would go on to establish the court system of the newly created country. Cornelius initially served as the law secretary for Law Minister Jogendra Nath Mandal and Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. He played a key part in crystalizing the court system while guiding the law minister and the prime minister. 

In a bench headed by Chief Justice Munir, he wrote a dissent note against the martial law rules. Cornelius was the only judge to make his point that Fundamental rights are inalienable, and cannot be suspended even by martial law.

He served his long tenure on the bench of the highest court in Pakistan as chief justice from 1969-68. He also served as the law minister in the cabinet of General Yahya Khan from 1969 to 1971. Even after he departed from the Court, Cornelius remained influential and was a symbol of the protection of the rights of minorities and freedom of religious practices, whilst serving as the legal adviser to successive governments on judicial matters.

Among his notable cases were actions defending non-Muslims’ rights, the Bogra case against presidential reserve powers (acc. to the inactive Article 58(2)B of the VIII Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan), defending workplace and labor laws, and sports law regarding the Pakistan Cricket Board. 


His vital works include Law and judiciary in Pakistan; Lahore Law Times Publications and the ethical basis for democracy in Pakistan. With that, he worked on the amalgamation of his legal philosophy through his 57 speeches and papers. It has elements. (a) Law has a moral function in society; (b) Law should be culture-sensitive, and (c) Islam is a valid foundation for a universal society. 

Also, justice Cornelius was closely associated with the Lahore Gymkhana Cricket Club which played at Bagh-e-Jinnah. He was the main founding figure of Pakistan cricket after partition. Cornelius was one of the three original vice-Presidents of the Pakistan Cricket Board and became Chairman of the working committee.

Cornelius was in September 1960 made Chairman of the first Ad Hoc Committee, created to run cricket in Pakistan until May 1963. Cornelius’s proudest achievement in cricket was to found the Pakistan Eaglets, an informal club of promising young Pakistani cricketers, which made tours of England in 1952 and 1953 in preparation for the first full Test tour of England in 1954.


He died at the age of 88 on 21 December 1991 at the city’s Christian cemetery, Lahore.

Zunaira Ali is the Freelance writer. She is graduated from the School of Politics and IR Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. She frequently contributed to Pakistan’s leading newspaper. She is working at STUDENTINN SOLUTIONS as Intern Content Writer.


1 thought on “JUSTICE CORNELIUS: A Catholic Judge of a Muslim Polity”

  1. I had always known that Justice Cornelius was an exceptional judge who being a Christian earned the greatest respect from almost every Pakistani but through this article I have learned something very interesting that he helped Quaid e Azam in writing the Lahore Resolution and that he also worked as a secretary to Jagan Nath Mandal the first law minister of Pakistan.
    Being a Christian I am really proud of him.
    He deserves nothing but respect.
    Dr.Emile Unjom
    A Christian brother.

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