Indian independence lawyer reinstated to Inner Temple after 106 years

Shyamji Krishna Varma
Shyamji Krishna Varma

An Indian barrister disbarred over 100 years ago for advocating independence for the sub-continent has been posthumously reinstated by London’s Honourable Society of the Inner Temple.

Shyamji Krishna Varma, who was born in 1857 and died in 1930, did “not receive an entirely fair hearing” according to the Inner Temple after he wrote to The Times in 1909 calling for home rule.

Mr Varma, who was the first ever Indian to be called to the English bar, was a prominent barrister and political activist before the First World War.

He is better known in India where a university is named in his honour. He is also venerated by the country’s current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, leader of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who is visiting the UK this week.

A Delhi barrister wrote to the Inner Temple this year to ask why Mr Varma had not been retrospectively rehabilitated.

Mahatma Gandhi was reinstated in 1988 after being expelled in 1922 following his conviction for sedition in the wake of protests he organised.

Mr Varma studied at Balliol College, Oxford and was disbarred for writing a letter to The Times calling for Indian home rule.

He was called to the bar in 1884 and, in 1909, founded India House in Highgate – a hostel for Indian students subjected to racism when looking for accommodation in London.

Among his visitors there were Gandhi and Lenin.

In his letter, which was a response to attacks on India House, he pointed out that both John Milton and George Washington, who both called for violent resistance against tyrannical regimes, were honoured in England.

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