News had come last week of the hospitalisation of Justice Saiyed Saghir Ahmed with respiratory distress in Lucknow. When I rang up to inquire his welfare his son in law gave the glad tidings that he was out of the woods and I could briefly speak to him. On Sunday it was gathered that he was well on his way to recovery and will be discharged on Monday morning – news came late last night (Monday) evening that he was no more! This brings the curtain down on the life of a loveable, affectionate human being.
Saghir Bhai, as he was almost universally known, was born in 1935. His father Mr. Syed Mohammed Husain was not only a well known lawyer but a versatile jurist whose compendium of legislations and regulations from the days of the East India Company onwards is a testimony to his erudition. Saghir Bhai had his early education in Christian College Lucknow. After passing the Intermediate examination he went to Aligarh and obtained his BSc from the AMU. He came back to Lucknow to be in his father’s foot-steps and joined the legal profession after obtaining a degree in Law from the University of Lucknow. He soon became Standing Counsel for the Central Government at the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court; his fairness and diligence stood Organisations like the Railways in good stead. He was elevated to the Bench of the High Court in 1981 and was appointed Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court in 1993. He was transferred to Hyderabad as Chief Justice of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in 1994 from where he moved over to the Supreme Court in 1995 retiring in June 2000.
As a judge he was very popular among the lawyers due to his unfailing politeness and consideration particularly to the younger members of the bar. Though he left Uttar Pradesh in 1991 he maintained contacts with the members of the subordinate judiciary. To the younger judicial officers with a reputation of integrity he was some kind of a patron saint. His major contribution to public affairs came after retirement when in 2005 the Prime Minister appointed him to head a Committee to work out a consensus among different regions and sections of Jammu and Kashmir for enhanced autonomy. Although the recommendations of the Committee remain unimplemented any future initiative to iron out local differences will have to substantially lean on the “Saghir Ahmad Committee” report.
This writer had the good fortune of enjoying his unselfish love and attention. Whenever he happened to visit Delhi he would invariably ask for a ‘nashist’ or a sitting for general conversation. Even as late as last Friday when he had come out of coma and we spoke over the phone, he was solicitous of my welfare and expressing a keen desire to meet face to face at an early date. He was a generous host and a real connoisseur of good food awho was genuinely pleased to have at least a few guests share the repast at the dining table. Deeply attached to his father, during his judgeship of the High Court in Lucknow he would drive most evenings from his residence in Kali Das Marg to the old city to have Dinner with him. His innate goodness and lack of aggressive covetousness came in the way of receiving post retirement sinecures and assignments that come all too frequently to retired judges of the apex court – his reward was however the high degree of love and respect that he enjoyed among the members of the bar and general public.
In the death of Justice Saiyed Saghir Ahmed the country and community has lost a most decent human being and this writer has been deprived the company of someone considerably older than him but who was a dearly respected friend.
*Mr. Naved Masood is an AMU Alum and a senior Civil Servant in Govt. of India and he is based in New Delhi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org