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Lawyer Years

Topical Philately Related to Mohandas K. Gandhi

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1891: In India ] 1893: To South Africa ] 1896: To India and Back ] 1901:  via Mauritius ] 1902: To Rangoon ] 1902: Back to Africa ]

Gandhi was called to the Bar in London on June 10, 1891 and enrolled in the High Court the following day.  A few months after returning to India he applied for admission to the Bombay High Court on November 26, 1891.  Gazette notifications indicate that on May 14, 1892, he was allowed to practice in the Kathiawar Agency Courts.  Finding practice in Rajkot difficult, he proceeded to Bombay for a brief period and returned to set up shop with his brother (drawing up legal petitions, for 300 Rupees a month) later that year.

Gandhi left his wife and child behind and sailed to South Africa in April 1893, taking up an offer for legal work for an Indian merchant (Dada Abdulla & Co. of Durban) and hoping to return in a year.  During the first week at the Durban Court, when asked to remove his Turban, Gandhi opted to leave the premises, which secured him considerable publicity.  A week later, he undertook his historic train journey to Pretoria, which led to his being thrown out of the first-class coach at the Pietermaritzburg train station.

Despite opposition from the Natal Law Society, Gandhi was allowed by Supreme Court to practice in Natal Courts on September 3, 1894. Asked to remove his turban while in Court, he obeyed to conform to court practice and to reserve his strength for "fighting bigger battles".  On June 17, 1895, he defended and secured the release of an indentured laborer (Balasundaram), a case that exposed the plight of indentured laborers to him.  On January 27, 1896, The Times of  London referred to Gandhi as one "whose efforts on behalf of his Indian fellow-subjects in South Africa entitle him to respect".

On May 26, 1896, representatives of the Durban Indian community authorized Gandhi to represent their grievances to authorities and public institutions in India.  He left for India on June 5th, sailing to Calcutta and traveling by rail to Bombay via Allahabad on July 4th.  Following a move by the Transvaal Volksraad to restrict Indians to specific locations, he was cables to return to Natal and set sail from Bombay on December 18th.  Upon arrival in Durban on January 13, 1897, he was assaulted by an angry mob of Europeans and was rescued by the Police Superintendent and his wife.  A week later, he indicated to the Attorney General that he wished to decline the offer to prosecute his assailants.

On August 8 1898, the The Transvaal High Court ruled in a Test Case that no distinction could be made between places of residence and business premises, and that Indians must reside as well as trade only in Locations specified by Government.  Two weeks later, Gandhi petitioned the Indian National Congress, seeking its intervention in regard to implementation of the Locations Policy by the Transvaal Government. On April 25 1899, the Transvaal Government ordered Asiatics to move to the Locations before July 1.