Chanan Singh was born in India in 1908 and arrived in Kenya in 1923. From being employed as a locomotive fitter with the railways, he won a fellowship from the Royal Economics Society (London), was called to the Bar by the Lincoln’s Inn, and became a judge of the High Court.
He was one of Kenya’s most accomplished public figures, having been Secretary and President of the Nairobi Indian Association; Executive member of the East African Indian National Congress and Founder Chairman of the Kenya Freedom Party.
He was an elected member of the Legislative Council (1952-56) and re-elected in 1961, when he joined KANU. In 1962, he was appointed the Parliamentary Secretary and Minister of State for Constitutional Affairs; in 1963, he became a Specially Elected Member to the House of Representatives and Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister Jomo Kenyatta.
In 1964, he resigned from Parliament and took up the office of Puisne Judge of the High Court of Kenya – a position he held until his death in 1977.
His private practice reflected his public-spirited nature: He defended Makhan Singh from being deported and represented Senior Chief Koinange when he defied a colonial ban on growing coffee. In 1958, he was elected as President of the Law Society of Kenya. He served on numerous Government Committees and Boards.
Incorruptible and fearless in his opposition to injustice, Chanan Singh never sought publicity for himself, his immense contributions to the freedom struggle were truly selfless.