The CB Madan Awards and the CB Madan Memorial Lecture


CB MADAN 1912-1989

When I founded the Nairobi Law Monthly in 1987 I had on the cover of the inaugural edition, a portrait of Chief Justice Madan which we had specially commissioned, and in the introductory essay this is what I wrote:

Before his retirement upon reaching the statutory retirement age of 74 years Mr. Justice Chunilal B. Madan bestrode the Kenyan judicial landscape with unequalled brilliance. A short soft-spoken man whose gait betrays Ghandhian frailty as he strolls from a coffee house in the City Centre to his Prudential Building office Justice Madan nevertheless has left a legacy that the men and women he has left in the Bench will be eager to emulate.

C.B Madan was born on 11th November, 1912 in Kenya, educated at the Government Indian School, (later Duke of Gloucester and) now Jamhuri High School before proceeding to the Middle Temple, London to read law. At the age of 21 he was called to the Bar in 1936, the youngest age ever for the Middle Temple, and possibly, all other Inns. While in London, reading his law Madan was also a student at the London School of Oriental Studies between 1932 and 1933. Upon his return to Kenya Madan opened his own legal practice in Nairobi and one of the very first persons to be defended by him in 1937 was Muindi Mbingu in memory of whom the busy Nairobi street named.

At the age of 23 he was elected to the Nairobi Council and from there on he became a prominent personality in Asian affairs being the President of the Nairobi Indian Association. In 1938, he became honorary Secretary General of the Kenya Indian Congress and between 1952 and 1954 he was its Vice- President.

His first attempt to enter the Legislative Council was in 1941 when he lost the election by 159 votes in a poll of about 21,000. In 1948 the Kenya Indian Congress appointed him its sole candidate for the then Nairobi Central Area seat and he proceeded to capture the seat with a huge majority. Thereafter he was re-elected continuously until his appointment to the High Court as a puisne judge on 28th March, 1961.

In the pre-independent power alliances Madan sided with the United Kenya Party for which he was the Treasurer between 1958 and 1960. It was as a member of that Party that he was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Commerce and Industry in April 1955 and Minister without Portfolio in October 1957.

In November of the same year he resigned to give the Colonial Secretary the initiative of framing a new Constitution from Kenya to replace the Lyttleton Plan. Upon the resigning he told a public meeting In Embu that the new Constitutional proposals were a venture ‘which in its very conception shows glimmerings of Constitutional progress’ adding that ‘it is now up to us, the inhabitants of the country to fan these glimmerings and to make them aglow with our faith in the future of the country’.

A few years before, the East African Standard of 18th April 1955 had reported Madan as having called for creation in Kenya of a ‘brave new world’ of free and equal political status for all.

At the time of his appointment as Acting Chief Justice on October 9, 1984 Madan was the most senior member of the judiciary. He took over as Chief Justice from Sir Alfred Simpson who had held the post since 1982 when Sir James Wicks relinquished it after ten years.

Madan’s tenure as Chief Justice was relatively brief but it was a period that marked a radical change to the office of the Chief Justice. The first non-white occupant of the post, he very quickly brought the office ‘to the people’, giving interviews and administrative instructions whose effects are still being felt”

The CB Madan Awards and the CB Madan Memorial Lecture memorializes one of our greatest chief justices who died in 1989.

Gitobu Imanyara, Publisher and Editor in Chief