Alvin Robert Cornelius

Hon. Alvin Robert Cornelius
الوین رابرٹ كورنيليس
Chief Justice of Pakistan
In office
13 May 1960  29 February 1968
Appointed by Ayub Khan
Preceded by Muhammad Shahabuddin
Succeeded by Sheikh Abdur Rehman
Chairperson of the Pakistan Cricket Board
In office
1949  14 May 1953
President Ayub Khan
Preceded by Ayub Khan
Succeeded by Muzafar Hussain
Federal Law Minister of Pakistan
In office
1969  16 December 1971
President General Yahya Khan
Personal details
Born (1903-05-08)8 May 1903
Agra, British Raj
(now India)
Died 21 December 1991(1991-12-21) (aged 88)
Lahore, Pakistan
Spouse(s) Ione Francis
Children 2
Alma mater Allahabad University
Selwyn College, Cambridge
Awards Hilal-i-Pakistan

Chief Justice Alvin "Bobby" Robert Cornelius (Urdu: الوین رابرٹ كورنيليس; 8 May 1903 – 21 December 1991), HPk, was a Pakistani jurist, legal philosopher and judge, serving as the 4th Chief Justice of Pakistan from 1960 until 1968. In addition, he briefly served as Law Minister in the cabinet of Yahya Khan.

Cornelius was born in Agra, Uttar Pradesh in the British Indian Empire, to an Anglo-Indian Christian family. Cornelius graduated from Allahabad University in India and Selwyn College at Cambridge in the United Kingdom. He 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, then later joining the Justice department of the 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.

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 (see inactive Article 58(2)B of the VIII Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan), 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".[1]

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.[1] 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.[1] 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.[1] 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.[2]

Early life

Family roots and education

Alvin Robert Cornelius was born on 8 May 1903, in Agra, United Provinces of British Indian Empire, to a Christian English-speaking family.[3] He came from a well established family of Anglo-Indian ancestry, and his parents Professor I.J. Cornelius and Tara D' Rozario were the notable figures of the Roman Catholics community India[3] His grandfather, Michael D'Rozario was Deputy-Range Officer-Forests, Central India. His father was a professor of mathematics at Holkar college.[4] He was a close friend of lawyer Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar.[3] Cornelius was admitted at the Allahabad University after passing the university entrance exam in 1920.[3] After admitting at the law school of the Allahabad University, Cornelius gained his BS in mathematics and LLB in civil law, with writing a comprehensive thesis on history of religious law in 1924.[3]

Cornelius joined the law faculty of the university, working there as a research associate, and winning the government scholarship to pursue further education abroad.[3] The same year, Cornelius went to United Kingdom for his higher education, he was admitted at the Cambridge University, attending the Selwyn College to study law.[3] In 1926, Cornelius graduated with LLM in Law and Justice, and submitted his fundamental thesis on Western law.[3] After reluctantly returning to India, Cornelius took the entrance exam and given commissioned as an officer at the Indian Civil Service, joining the Department of Law of the Government of Punjab.[5]

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.

Pakistan Movement

Main article: Pakistan Movement

Cornelius was one of the notable Christian figures in the Pakistan Movement, closely collaborating with Mohammad Ali Jinnah.[6] Cornelius was an active activist for the Pakistan Movement, among one of the outspoken speakers of the movement, working to rallying the support for the Pakistan Movement. Unlike the opposition led by renowned Muslim leader Abul Kalam Azad to oppose the division of India, Cornelius felt that the creation of the Muslim homeland in India was one key solution to ill-treatment of Muslims by the British government and the among the leaders of the Congress Party of India, while at same time he revived the nationalism spirit. Cornelius assisted Jinnah drafting the Pakistan Resolution, adding the legal clauses and articles justifying the rights of Muslims majority, non-Muslim communities and the ill-treatment of under-class both Non-Muslims and Muslims by the Congress Party in 1941. 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 was among one of the earliest citizens of newly created country, Pakistan, opting the country's citizenship as well as taking a federal law government assignment in the government of Liaquat Ali Khan.

Supreme Court of Pakistan

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.

Bogra vs. Governor-General

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.[7]

Chief Justice of Pakistan

Justice A.R. Cornelius was appointed as the Chief Justice of Pakistan in 1960.[8]

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.

Therefore, it is often seen as a matter of surprise that the same judge, after being promoted as the Chief Justice of Pakistan, upheld the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly by Governor-General Malik Ghulam Muhammad soon thereafter. Yet, it might help to remember that Munir's argument in favour of dictatorship – his famous 'Doctrine of Necessity' that provided excuse to all subsequent dictators – was also rooted in his western learning just like his secularism (he supported his argument on a maxim of the 13th century British jurist Henry de Bracton).

That it was left to a Christian to present the case of Islam at the highest ladder of jurisprudence in the formative phase of the Pakistan would be regarded by some as a paradox, and by others as corroboration of Muhammad Ali Jinnah's dream. Alvin Robert Cornelius was a relentless defender of Sharia, and arguably played the most important role in inculcating some Islamic values in the legal institutions of Pakistan.

The cornerstones of his legal philosophy may be summarised in three points: (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. How he built upon these simple ideas in his 57 speeches and papers, and how he demonstrated them through his judgments, is what makes him arguably one of the greatest legal philosophers.

In 1954, when the bench headed by Chief Justice Munir upheld the decision of the Governor-General to dissolve the constituent assembly, Cornelius was the only judge to write a note of dissent. Four years later, when the same court upheld the case of Dosso against the Martial law authorities, Cornelius wrote a concurrent judgment (i.e. he agreed with the decision but felt the need to explain himself separately). He observed that Fundamental rights are inalienable, and cannot be suspended even by martial law. This point of view was so different from the rest that it was later seen as a "note of dissent".

However, Cornelius' concept of inalienable rights seems to be slightly different from how the issue is usually projected. He was of the opinion that the people deserved to feel secure that law shall safeguard their cherished values and norms. In 'Crime and Punishment of Crime', the paper which he read at an international conference in Sydney in August 1965, he mentioned several cases to indicate "the extent to which the law supports the indigenous disciplines operating in our society, through the authority of the elders." For similar reasons, he defended the indigenous institution of jirga as well as the punishments prescribed by Sharia for crimes like theft and robbery.

Acutely aware of the tendency to treat each individual as an island, Cornelius offered a few words of caution to his international audience, and his words reflected the ethos of his new nation that had come into being with the specific goal of rediscovering society as an organic unity. "It must be recognised that crime is a biological fact of society, whether ancient or modern," he said. "It grows out of social condition and is not to be contained without the most careful examination of its etiology… In that process, it would be well not to reject, out of hand as being out-dated, the principles and techniques laid down and applied by the ancients, for dealing with the problem in their times. They may have their uses, and certainly in eastern countries, they still possess validity."[9]


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.


Grave in Lahore (2007).

Cornelius was residing permanently in Flatties Hotel Lahore after Retirement. He died at the age of 88 on 21 December 1991, in Lahore and was buried in the city's Christian cemetery.


See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 Gabriel, Theodore P. C. (2007). Christian citizens in the Islamic state: Pakistan experience. England, United Kingdom: Ashgate Limited. p. 120. ISBN 978-0-7546-6024-8.
  2. Nasir Iqbal (24 April 2011). "A Soft opening to Judicial past". The Dawn Newspapers. Retrieved 8 February 2012.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Ralph Braibanti (1999). Chief Justice Cornelius of Pakistan: An Analysis With Letters and Speeches. Karachi, Oxford University Press: Oxford University Press, 1999. p. 389. ISBN 978-0-19-579018-4.
  4. Studies in contemporary Islam. Center for Islamic Studies (Youngstone State University). 2000.
  5. Paula R. Newberg (1995). Judging the State: Courts and Constitutional Politics in Pakista. United Kingdom, Pakistan: Cambridge University Press. p. 285. ISBN 0-521-45289-9.
  6. Snippet view (2000). Impact international. Karachi, Pakistan: Snippet view.
  7. Archived 5 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. Khurram Ali Shafique (14 January 2011). "Cornelius and Sharia law". Danw Newspapers, 14 January 2011. Retrieved 8 February 2012.
  9. Khurram Ali Shafique. "Cornelius of Pakistan".
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Iftikhar Khan
Chairperson of the Pakistan Cricket Board
Succeeded by
Abdus Sattar Pirzada
Preceded by
Ayub Khan
Chairperson of the Pakistan Cricket Board
Succeeded by
Muzafar Hussain
Legal offices
Preceded by
Muhammad Shahabuddin
Chief Justice of Pakistan
Succeeded by
Sheikh Abdur Rehman
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/14/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.