Gray's Inn

India 1947

Sir Leonard Stone's oration to mark Indian independence, 14 August 1947

At midnight on 14 August, 1947, Sir Leonard Stone, Gray’s Inn Bencher (and later Treasurer) and the last English Chief Justice of Bombay, unfurled and saluted the Indian national flag in the High Court of Bombay. As part of the unfurling ceremony, Sir Leonard gave a speech celebrating the significance of this event. The transcript of this speech is held in the Archives of Gray’s Inn (reference DOC/20):

Oration delivered by the Hon’ble Sir Leonard Stone, Chief Justice of Bombay at the Unfurling of the Flag Ceremony at the High Court during the night of the 14/15th August 1947.

We meet on the eve of an epoch making event – an event unparalleled in the history of the world, for in a few minutes two new States embracing four hundred millions of people will be born.

Our sentiments on this momentous occasion must first turn in prayer that this great endeavour may be crowned with happiness and success; secondly in self-dedication – dedication by all the citizens of the new States in service to their State, in loyalty to its laws, and in human sympathy and kindness to all mankind; and thirdly, in joy and rejoicing that the wishes and aspirations of the peoples of this Sub-Continent to be free and independent are being consummated, and that it is in the time of our lives that these things should happen, so that we are present to bear witness to them.

In one sense, we who are assembled here are performing a public function, in that as administrators of the law we form one of the great components of constitutional Government; but in another sense, this is a domestic occasion, for we are all Judges or lawyers or members of the High Court Staff, who have come with our wives, our relatives and our friends, to be present in our own building, to pass these solemn moments together and to do honour to the emblem of the Union of India. There is a common bond of fellowship between us, for each of us in his appointed sphere plays his part in forwarding the cause of justice. Perhaps, in this hour of triumph, we may recall for a moment the memory of some of our illustrious predecessors; noble contributions to the cause of liberty and equity, who have built up the reputation in our Court, so that it stands high in the esteem of our fellow men.

British and Indians, Judges and Lawyers, Jurists and members of the Staff, have striven together as one united entity, so that the honour and integrity of the administration of justice may stand high in the realm of human rights.

Let us then recall such names as those of John Peter Grant and Michael Westropp, of Charles Sargent and George Farran, of Raymond West, Telang, Inverarity and Ranade, of Lawrence Jenkins and Badruddin Tyabji, of Lallubhai Shah and Dinshah Mulla, of Charles Fawcett and Govind Madgavkar, of Norman Lacleod and Bhulabhai Desai.

They are but a few of the great men who have graced this Court with their noble learning and vitality with their juristic acumen and forensic skill.

I am the last of a long line of English Chief Justices of the High Court of Judicature at Bombay, a Court which with its predecessors, whose jurisdiction it has inherited and extended, dates back to 1672: and I am proud that it is by my hand and at my command that the banner of independence should be raised in and upon this Court and all its historic associations. I thank you for this honour, which will be to me an abiding memory of your confidence.

This night, the Nations greet, with goodwill and friendship, the Union of India, arising to independence, and I know, that the good wishes of none can be so strong or so sincere, as those of my own countrymen; for after all, we and you have been long associated. Let us mutually forget those chapters in our joint history, which have not been happy ones; and let an abiding friendship endure between our two great races of freedom loving peoples.

The hills of time stand before us. They are shrouded in the mists of uncertainty and doubt, which envelope a troubled world. Go bravely forward, fearless and undaunted, carry the torch of liberty high, so that this new India may be strong and happy, and enjoy the blessings of true freedom, and so that you may take your place in the councils of the Nations, living at home and abroad in mutual trust and concord and at Peace.

“May God so will.”