Former Chief Justice of India
Assumed Office5th Jan, 1987
Retires On19th Nov, 1992
Assistant Government Pleader for the State of Maharashtra in the City Civil Court Bombay5th December, 1964
Government Pleader 16th January 1967-1969
Additional Judge of the Bombay High Court 4th November 1969
Permanent Judge of the Bombay High Court1971-
Chief Justice of the Bombay High CourtJune 1986-
Judge of the Supreme Court 1st May, 1987
Madhukar Harilal Kania enrolled as an advocate on the 1st November 1949. He mostly practiced in civil suits and commercial matters at the Bombay High Court and the Bombay City Civil Court. He was appointed as the Assistant Government Pleader for the State of Maharashtra in the City Civil Court Bombay on 5th December 1964, and later became the Government Pleader on 16th January 1967, till 1969.
He started as an Additional Judge of the Bombay High Court with his appointment on 4th November 1969. He became a permanent Judge, Bombay High Court by 1971 and was later made the Chief Justice of the Bombay high Court in June 1986. He was then elevated as the judge of the Supreme Court on 1st May 1987, and later as the 23rd Chief Justice of India on 13th December 1991, succeeding Justice K.N. Singh. After serving for almost a year as the Chief Justice of India, he retired on 17th November 1992.
During his term of around five years at the Supreme Court, Justice M.H. Kania was a part of 454 benches, and authored 107 judgments.
Justice Kania worked on cases concerning constitutional law, property law, direct-taxation, service matters, and tenancy matters.
A nine judge Bench delivered one of the most pivotal cases relating to reservations in India: Indra Sawhney v. Union of India. Chief Justice M.H. Kania was a part of the majority. The judgment introduced the “creamy layer” concept, and their exclusion from reservations. The judgment considered caste as a marker to identify social backwardness of OBCs. Economic backwardness could not be the only criteria- the economic and educational backwardness had to be because of the social backwardness, for a class to be under OBCs. Reservations in government services for OBCs was upheld based on these parameters, but the judgment also said that reservations in promotions were not allowed.
In MC Mehta v. State of Tamil Nadu, was a public interest litigation concerning child labour.. Relying on Articles 39 and 45 of the Constitution, Justice Kania said that children could not be employed in factories dealing with hazardous items. Further, even if grown up children wanted to work because of unfortunate economic conditions, they could only be involved in packaging and not manufacturing - provided that the children were kept away from the manufacturing area. He also gave directions in the judgment to improve the quality of life of children employed in factories.