Motilal Nehru, born on 6 May 1861, was an Indian lawyer, activist and politician belonging to the Indian National Congress. He also served as the Congress President twice, 1919–1920 and 1928–1929. He was a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family and the father of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, but also a lot more than that.
The Nehrus hailed from Kashmir, but had settled in Delhi since the beginning of the eighteenth century. Motilal Nehru’s grandfather, Lakshmi Narayan, became the first Vakil of the East India Company at the Mughal Court of Delhi. His father, Gangadhar, was a police officer in Delhi in 1857, when it was engulfed by the Mutiny.
Motilal Nehru was one of the first Indians to receive ‘Western’ education in India. He attended Muir College at Agra but failed to appear for his Bachelor of Arts degree examinations. Motilal Nehru then enlisted himself as a lawyer in the English courts. He became a barrister and settled in Allahabad. As a successful barrister, he earned the honor of appearing in the Privy Council of Great Britain.
The Pioneer newspaper conferred him the title ‘Brigadier General of the Home Rule League’.
Motilal Nehru was the prime mover of the Nehru Commission (1928), the first constitution written by Indians which sought a dominion status for India within the British Empire.
The report, written in a legal style comprising 22 chapters and 87 articles, claimed dominion status for India, and included sections on fundamental rights, among others. Written in response to the formation of the Simon Commission, the report was rejected by Britain and hard line Indians who saw it as an unfair document not representing the varied interests of the native Indian population.
Despite his poor health, Motilal participated in the movement and travelled to Jambasur, Gujarat, to support Gandhi’s salt satyagraha. He was jailed for a couple of months and was released in light of his poor health.
This freedom fighter and a prominent figure in Indian National Congress passed away on February 6, 1931.
Paying tribute to Motilal Nehru, the British Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court, Sir Grimwood Mears, stated:He had a profusion of gifts, and as an advocate he had the art of presenting his case in its most attractive form…He had an exquisite public speaking voice and a charm of manner which made it a pleasure to listen to him…With his wide range of reading and the pleasure that he had taken in travel he was a very delightful private companion and wherever he sat at a table there was the head of the table and there was the centre of interest. He has left behind a very great reputation in this court and his name will always be associated with this Court and be one of the traditions of this Court.