Born on 25th March 1932, Justice Aziz Mushabber Ahmadi enrolled in Bombay in 1954 as a district attorney. Ten years later, in 1964, he was appointed as a Judge in the City Civil and Sessions Court in Ahmedabad. He subsequently became Secretary of the Legal Department, Government of Gujarat in 1974.
Soon after, on 2nd September 1976, he was appointed as a Judge of the High Court of Gujarat. During this time, he served as a member of several advisory boards such as the Advisory Board under Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act, 1974 and the Gujarat State Third Pay Commission. In December 1988, he was appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court. While in the apex court, Justice Ahmadi served as the President of the Supreme Court Legal Aid Committee and as an Executive Chairman in the Committee for implementing Legal Aid schemes in India. On 25th October 1994, Justice Ahmadi became the 26th Chief Justice of India and continued to serve in that capacity until his retirement on 24th March 1997.
During his time at the Supreme Court, Justice Ahmadi authored 232 judgments and was a part of 811 benches.
In S. R. Bommai v. India, the bench was required to determine the scope of the powers of the president concerning imposing the President’s rule under Article 356. The bench which included Justice Ahmadi found that the President’s power in this regard was not absolute and that the President could only act under this provision if the proclamation of imposing President’s rule was approved by both Houses of Parliament. The court also ruled that the power of the President under Article 356 was subject to judicial review.
In Indra Sawhney v. Union of India, the majority (including Justice Ahmadi) held inter alia that Article 16(4) which allows the State to make reservations was not an exception to Article 16(1) which guarantees all citizens equality of opportunity in all matters of employment; but was rather, a facet of the equality of opportunity guaranteed in clause (1). The bench further clarified that any class of society that was socially and economically backwards could be given reservation and that castes could constitute such a class.
In Keshub Mahindra v. State of Madhya Pradesh, the question before the division bench comprising of Justice Ahmadi and Justice Majumdar was whether Keshub Mahindra could be tried for culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code, for having known that the gas in the Bhopal Union Carbide plant was highly toxic and capable of killing many people upon escape. The bench answered in the affirmative and held that Section 304A did not require the presence of intent on part of the accused.
In L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India, Justice Ahmadi authored a judgment that held that the creation of tribunals under Article 323A and 323B does not result in the exclusion of the jurisdiction of either the Supreme Court or the High Courts. This decision was based on the finding that the jurisdiction conferred upon the Supreme court under Article 32 and the High Courts under Article 226 and 227 formed part of the basic structure of the Constitution and were inviolable. In doing so, the bench struck down Clause 2(d) of Article 323A and Clause 3(d) of Article 323B and declared them to be unconstitutional.
In Ismail Faruqui v. Union of India (also known as the Ayodhya dispute), Justice S P Bharucha and Justice Ahmadi formed part of the minority. In a judgment authored by S P Bharucha, the minority found the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act, 1993 to be unconstitutional. They opined that the Act prevented the Muslim Community from pleading and establishing adverse possession, thereby restricting their right to redress. The judgment deemed such restriction to be opposed to the idea of secularism and hence against the basic structure of the Constitution.