Law and Nationhood

Law and Nationhood exhibition opens at the UK Supreme Court

  • Mondays to Fridays (except public holidays) until Monday 29 January 2018
Opening times
  • 09.30 to 16:30
Lower ground floor and second floor, The Supreme Court
Free admission

A new exhibition is on display at the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. Curated by the Supreme Court Arts Trust, this free exhibition coincides with the 70th anniversary celebrations of independence of the Indian subcontinent as well as the UK-India Year of Culture.

Commemorating 70 years of independence in South Asia, the Law and Nationhood exhibition highlights the shared legal background of central figures, Ambedkar, Gandhi, Iqbal, Jinnah, Krishna Varma, and Nehru, drawing on little-known documents from their respective Inns of Court. It explores the conspicuous role that law and legality played in the pre- and post-independent histories of India and Pakistan by focusing on six prominent barrister-politicians, each having studied law in England, and called to the Bar at different Inns of Courts in London through the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The exhibition explores the complex colonial reaction towards its 'Barristers' turning into opponents of their own 'teachers', and the contribution that these leaders made to the consolidation of democracy in their respective nations. It uses photographs, facsimiles, archival documents and artefacts, many of which have never been publicly displayed or are little known to the outside world.

Key focuses include the rich British legal associations of central figures in the independence of the subcontinent: Gandhi, Nehru and Krishna Varma at Inner Temple; Jinnah and Iqbal at Lincoln's Inn; and Ambedkar at Gray's Inn and the London School of Economics (LSE). The exhibition also considers the historic role of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (now co-located with UKSC and staffed by the same Judges) in deciding cases from India, and Jinnah's role as Privy Councillor between 1930-34.

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council originated as the highest court of civil and criminal appeal for the British Empire. It now fulfils the same purpose for many Commonwealth countries, as well as the United Kingdom's overseas territories, crown dependencies, and military sovereign base areas. It is now located at the Supreme Court, where Justices also serve as Privy Councillors. Jinnah, one of the six barristers in the exhibition, served as a Privy Councillor in the 1930s.

Key loans include admission and call papers, dress robes from the Supreme Courts of both India and Pakistan, private correspondence relating to the disbarment of Gandhi and Krishna Varma at Inner Temple, photographs from the collection of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and rare photographs of Gandhi, Jinnah, and Nehru in the 1930s and 1940s by Kanu Gandhi (loan from the personal collection of Saleem A. Quadri MBE).

Visitors to the exhibition are also welcome to explore the rest of the building, including our three courtrooms and a separate permanent exhibition in the basement about the history of the Supreme Court and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

The exhibition has been made possible through support from

  • The Supreme Court of Pakistan
  • The Supreme Court of India
  • LSE South Asia Centre
  • LSE Arts
  • The Courtauld Institute of Art
  • The Honourable Society of Gray's Inn
  • The Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn
  • The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple