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Alvin Robert Cornelius

Chief Justice Alvin "Bobby" Robert Cornelius (Urdu: الوین رابرٹ كورنيليس; 8 May 1903 – 21 December 1991), HPk, was the Pakistani jurist, legal philosopher and judge, serving as the 4th Chief Justice of Pakistan from 1960 until 1968.

Cornelius was born in Agra, Uttar Pradesh in the British Indian Empire, to an Urdu-speaking Christian family. Cornelius graduated from the Allahabad University in India and Selwyn College in the United Kingdom. Cornelius was commissioned into the Indian Civil Service and was the assistant commissioner in the Punjab Province, starting his judicial career in the Lahore High Court in 1943, later joining the Justice department of Punjab government. During this time, Cornelius became a recognised jurist, publishing important text books in Pakistani legal history during his career. Cornelius also became a leading activist for the Pakistan Movement, seeing it as a solution to ill-treatment of Muslims and Christians in the subcontinent and India, while at the same time trying to "revive the nationalism spirit.

In 1946, Cornelius was elevated to associate judge at the Lahore High Court, and opting for Pakistan, Cornelius became an important figure in country's legal history. Initially serving as the law secretary for Law Minister Jogendra Nath Mandal and Prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan, Cornelius played an integral role setting up the court system while advising the law minister and the prime minister. Among his notable cases included the actions defending Non-Muslims rights (Freedom of religion), Bogra case against the Presidential reserve powers, defending workplace and labour laws, sports law in Pakistan Cricket Board. Cornelius was regarded as a man of justice, warning and fighting against the religious extremism, as he quoted in his case, "A general feeling of [great] despair, a widespread of [self] confidence... and common readiness in the anticipate the worst".

In 1960, President Ayub Khan nominated Cornelius to become the Chief Justice of Pakistan, his contest was briefly discussed, but eventually he was elevated to Chief Justice. Alvin Robert Cornelius became the first Christian Chief Justice, becoming one of the most famous and influential figures ever to serve on the supreme court. After his departure from the supreme court, Cornelius remained influential and was a symbol protecting the rights of minorities, freedom of religious practices, whilst serving as the legal adviser to successive Government of Pakistan on judicial matters. His opinions, according to legal scholars in Pakistan, were some of the greatest defences of "freedom of religion" written by a Christian Chief Justice of a Muslim state.

Career in law

He joined the Indian Civil Service in 1926. He served in Punjab, where he held the positions of Assistant Commissioner and District and Sessions Judge till 1943 when he joined Law Department of Government of Punjab as Legal Remembrancer. In 1946 Mr. Cornelius was elevated to the Bench of Lahore High Court.

From 1950 to 1951, Cornelius served as secretary of Law and Labour at the Ministry of Law, Labour headed by Jogendra Nath Mandal. In 1951, following the assassination Prime minister Liaqat Ali Khan, Cornelius left the government assignment and was appointed as an associate judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in November 1951 and continued as a judge with regular intervals until 1953 when he was confirmed as a senior judge of the Federal Court of Pakistan.

Upon returning to India in 1894, Sorabji became involved in social and advisory work on behalf of the purdahnashins, women who, according to Hindu law, were forbidden to communicate with the outside male world. In many cases, these women owned considerable property, yet had no access to the necessary legal expertise to defend it. Sorabji was given special permission to enter pleas on the behalf of the purdahnashins before British agents of Kathiawar and Indore principalities, but she was unable to defend them in court since, as a woman, she did not hold professional standing in the Indian legal system. In the hopes of remedying that, Sorabji presented herself for the LLB examination of Bombay University in 1897 and pleader's examination of Allahabad high court in 1899. Yet, despite her successes, Sorabji would not be recognised as a barrister until the law which barred women from practising was changed in 1924.

In 1954, the National Assembly of Pakistan tried to change the constitution to establish checks on the Governor-General's powers, to prevent a repeat of what had happened to Nazimuddin's government. In response, Ghulam Muhammad dismissed the Assembly, an action that was challenged in the Supreme Court. Ghulam Muhammad emerged victorious when the Chief Justice Muhammad Munir upheld the dismissal in a split decision, despite the dissenting opinion written by the renowned Justice (later Chief Justice) A. R. Cornelius, and despite protests from the members of the Assembly

Legal Philosophy

Legal mode of thought in the first 20 years of Pakistani history was dominated by two opposite currents: pro-secular and pro-Islamic. A peaceful co-existence of these two currents is precisely what distinguishes the first 20 years (1947 to 1966) from the next twenty (1967–1987), when the two currents became increasingly divergent in Pakistan.

The pro-secular tendency was apparently inherited from the colonial past, and was widespread among the intelligentsia and the educated. For a number of reasons it has been epitomised by Justice Muhammad Munir (1895–1979), who was the main author of the Munir Report (1954) about the anti-Ahmedi riots in Punjab. The report has long been hailed as a masterpiece of secular values.


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 one of the three original vice-Presidents of the Pakistan Cricket Board (then B.C.C.P.) and became Chairman of the working committee, serving until he first relinquished his connection with the Board in early 1953. 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.


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