Kailash Nath Katju was born on 17th June 1887 in the princely state of Jaora. He studied in the Jaora school until 1900 and passed his matriculation examination from Punjab University in 1901. He had an expansive legal education, starting with his graduate degree in B.A. from Forman Christian College, Lahore in March 1905. He then went to earn his LL.B. degree in September 1907 from Muir Central College in Allahabad and was also awarded the Lumsdon Gold Medal for topping the High Court Vakil examination. Immediately after, in 1908, he secured a Masters in Arts from Allahabad University, he passed his LL.M. examination in 1913 and received a Doctor of Laws in 1919.
Katju began his legal career in 1908 in Kanpur, under Pandit Prithinath Chak, but soon moved his practice to Allahabad and joined the Chambers of Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru. Soon thereafter he was made an Advocate of the Allahabad High Court. He was the defence counsel in the Meerut Conspiracy case as well as the INA trials. On 17 July 1937, he was appointed as the Minister of Law and Justice and Parliamentary Affairs in the United Provinces. He also served in the Constituent Assembly of India.
Immediately after independence, he held the position of Governor of Orissa for almost a year, and subsequently, the Governor of West Bengal from 1948 to 1951. In 1951, he was appointed to Jawaharlal Nehru’s Cabinet as Law Minister and in November 1951 he succeeded C. Rajagopalachari as the country's third Home Minister. In 1955 he was made the Defence Minister and finally, he became the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh on 31 January 1957, remaining in office till 11 March 1962. Dr. Katju retired from political life in 1963.
He continued to maintain his interest in education until the end. He was a part-time teacher at the Allahabad University and the Chancellor of Sagar University. He was also one of the founders of the company which published the newspaper, National Herald.
He passed away on 17th February 1968, and Mr. K.L. Misra, the then Advocate General of Uttar Pradesh, delivered a tribute at the Full Court reference in the Chief Justice’s Court Room on the sad demise of Dr. K.N. Katju. In 1987, a stamp was issued in his name.
Dr. Katju wrote several books in his lifetime, mainly on legal practice and the legal fraternity. His books include – ‘Experiments in Advocacy: A Colossus in the Courts of Justice’, ‘The days I remember’ and ‘Reminiscences and Experiments in Advocacy’.