Justice Markandey Katju-
Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.
When I was a judge in Allahabad High Court ( 1991-2004 ) one evening when I was sitting at home I received a phone call ( it was probably in the 1990s ) from a person called Julian Gardner, who wanted to meet me. He had been my classmate in my old school, the Boys High School, Allahabad ( where I had studied from 1951-61 ) so I asked him to come over immediately so that we could exchange old memories.
Julian came and recounted his remarkable story.
Julian is an Anglo-Indian, i.e. a person of mixed British and Indian blood. The Boys High School, where we had studied, had been established in around 1860 to cater to Anglo Indian children, and even in 1951 when I joined it it still had a lot of Anglo Indian students ( though many had migrated with their parents for UK or Australia after Independence in 1947 ). As I said earlier, Julian was one of them, and we were classmates for many years. Later in life we went our different ways, and did not hear from each other for several decades. I had become a lawyer and then a Judge in Allahabad High Court, while Julian had joined the Indian Railways ( as he told me ), from which he later resigned and became a farmer in his hometown in Kasganj, UP.
On meeting me Julian told me his story, and said he needed my help.
Julian’s ancestor was a British aristocrat Lord Gardner, who had come to India sometime in the late 18th or early 19th century as a British army officer, and had created a British cavalry regiment known as the Gardners Horse ( which still exists in the Indian army, and is now known as The Second Lancers ). For the services he rendered, Lord Gardner was granted a huge estate in Kasganj, UP, where many of his descendants lived for long ( even today there is a Gardners House in Kasganj ).
Lord Gardner was a hereditary peer. There are two types of peers in England, hereditary peers and life peers. The former are those who belong to the original aristocratic families in England, and their eldest sons inherit the title ( Duke, Marquess, Earl or Baron ) as well as the family castles etc. On the other hand, the latter are not originally aristocrats but are conferred the title by the King ( or Queen ) for some service they rendered or for some achievement, but their children do not inherit the title.
The British Government had engaged a famous historian, who did extensive research, and came to the conclusion that Julian was the direct eldest descendant of Lord Gardner in the male line of descent, and hence was entitled to inherit Lord Gardner’s title, his castle in England, etc. However, the British Government wanted more proof, and it was in this connection that Julian came to meet me. He requested me to telephone the District Magistrate of Kasganj district ( later renamed Kanshiram Nagar ) and ask him to give Julian the necessary certificates and other papers.
I was happy to oblige an old friend and promptly did as requested. I thought my friend will soon become a British Lord and sit in the House of Lords ( the upper House of the British Parliament ), and I could boast that I was a friend of a British Lord and enjoy his hospitality in his castle in England when I go there.
However, all these thoughts came to naught. A few months later Julian informed me that the British Labour Government of Tony Blair had decided not to confer such titles to people who had remained without the title for long, and so poor Julian remains today without becoming a Lord.
His son-in-law, David Luke ( husband of Julian’s daughter Penny ) is presently the Principal of my old school, the Boys High School, Allahabad, and I hope to meet Julian again there sometime whenever I visit Allahabad next.