Badruddin Tyabji was a lawyer, judge, activist, and congress leader during British Raj. Tyabji was recognized for his impartiality. He was the first Indian to practice as a barrister in the High Court of Bombay. He was a founding member of the Indian National Congress. Later, he became the first Muslim President of the Indian National Congress.
Badruddin Tyabji was born on 10 October 1844 in Bombay (now Mumbai) in a wealthy Muslim family. His father, Mullah Tyab Ali Bhai Mian, was a member of the Sulaimani Bohra Community.
Tyabji and all of his brothers studied in Europe. At that time, English education was considered hateful for Muslims. Tyabji was inspired by his elder brother Camruddin, the first Indian solicitor admitted in England and Wales.
Tyabji learned Urdu and Persian at Dada Makhra’s Madrassa. After that, he joined the Elphinstone Institution (now Elphinstone College) in Bombay. At the age of sixteen, he joined Newbury High Park College in London.
In 1863, Tyabji enrolled at the University of London and Middle Temple. He was called to the Bar in April 1867.
Return To India
Tyabji returned to India in December 1867. He became the first Indian barrister in the High Court of Bombay.
At that time, there was neither an Indian lawyer nor a judge. Soon, he was recognized among the top Indian Lawyer.
Tyabji was a member of the University of Bombay senate between 1875-1905. He was appointed to the Bombay Legislative Council in 1882 and resigned in 1886 due to ill health.
Tyabji founded Anjuman-e-Islam to promote education among Muslims.
Tyabji fought for women’s freedom and education. He broke the rules of his family by imparting his daughters with higher education.
Foundation of Indian National Congress
Badruddin and his elder brother Camruddin played an important role in the founding of the Indian National Congress. Tyabji played an important role in building the national scope of Congress by working to gain support from Hindus and Muslims. During 1887-88, when he was President of the Indian National Congress, he focused on uniting the Muslim community. He founded the Islam Club and the Islam Gymkhana.
In response to criticisms that Muslims should boycott the Congress, Tyabji announced that he had condemned all communal and communal prejudices.
To bring Muslims into the Congress fold, he introduced Resolution No. XIII at the 1888 Allahabad Congress stating stated, “That no subject shall be passed for discussion by the Subject Committee, or allowed to be discussed at any Congress…to the introduction of which the Hindu or Mahomedan Delegates as a body object…provided that this rule shall refer only to subjects in regard to which the Congress has not already definitely pronounced an opinion.” This measure was introduced with the intention of appealing to Muslims by limiting the scope of congressional activities only to those items on which both Muslims and Hindus agreed.
Despite these initiatives, many Muslim leaders, including Syed Ahmad Khan, were still in confusion about the ability of Congress to represent them. In spite of this criticism, Tyabji continued to believe in the capability of Congress to represent the collective interest of Indians as a whole.
In his Presidential address to the 1887 Madras Congress, Tyabji reassured members of his faith, stating, “I, at least, not merely in my individual capacity but as representing the Anjuman-i-Islam of Bombay, do not consider that there is anything whatever in the position or the relations of the different communities of India — be they Hindus, Musalmans, Parsis, or Christians — which should induce the leaders of any one community to stand aloof from the others in their efforts to obtain those great general reforms, those great general rights, which are for the common benefit of us all; and which, I feel assured, have only to be earnestly and unanimously pressed upon Government to be granted to us.” He was one of the moderate Muslims during the freedom movement of India.
Judge of Bombay High Court
In June 1895, Badruddin Tyabji was made a judge of the High Court of Bombay. In 1902, Tyabji was the first Indian to hold the post of Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court.
Tyabji imagined a secular society. He was known for his fairness. During his tenure as the judge of “Bombay High Court”, he released Bal Gangadhar Tilak on bail in the treason trial run by the government on him.
On 26th August 1906, while on furlough in London, England Badruddin Tyabji died suddenly of a heart attack.
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