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OpinionsEminent Jurist Fali S Nariman’s Passing Away Is A Big loss...

Eminent Jurist Fali S Nariman’s Passing Away Is A Big loss to Indian Democracy


By Nitya Chakraborty

Ninety five years is a ripe old age for an Indian to live, but the passing away of the eminent jurist and the constitutional lawyer of the country at this period of Indian polity, is a big jolt to those who have been battling for protecting the constitutional values from the attacks of the Narendra Modi government. He was a Colossus in the Indian bar protecting the Indian constitution from every single attack, whether it was Indira Gandhi in 1975 or the present Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the last ten years.

Only last year at the age of 94, Nariman told in an interview that the situation in today was like a veiled emergency but with added prevailing mood of anti-muslim, anti-minority sentiment. Nariman, a Parsi monitored in his last years the fall of Indian democracy under Narendra Modi. He was quite vocal against the Supreme Court judgment on Article 370. As a fearless defender of press freedom, the veteran lawyer always spoke out when the BJP government carried out attacks on the independent media houses.

As the leading human rights lawyer Indira Jaising said ‘ He was the last of a generation of lawyers from Bombay who shaped and moulded the history of constitutional law in India, a voice that stood by secular values, for the independence of the judiciary'. Similarly, another leading lawyer activist Prashant Bhushan said Nariman was regarded as the Bhisma Pitamah of the country's lawyer community. In fact, after the seniormost practicing lawyer Ram Jethmalani's death, Nariman was the seniormost among the practicing lawyers in Supreme Court.

Nariman argued several landmark cases during his illustrious career of 70 years, first in the Bombay high court and then in the Supreme Court. In May 1972, he was appointed the additional solicitor general of India – but resigned in protest when the Indira Gandhi government imposed Emergency in June 1975. He received Padma Bhushan in 1991 and Padma Vibhushan in 2007. He was a nominated member of Rajya Sabha from 1999 to 2005. He was a senior advocate in the Supreme Court since 1971 and was the president of the Bar Association of India from 1991 to 2010.

Nariman was appointed additional solicitor general in May 1972 but he resigned on June 26, 1975 by differing with the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on the issue of clamping emergency. Since then, he has been a steadfast defender of the Constitutional values which inspired a large number of lawyers at that time. However, he had a dark spot in his career when he took the legal counsel position of the US multinational Union Carbide after the Bhopal disaster of 1984. Later in his life, he regretted this decision. Nariman however said that he was instrumental in getting a deal between the victims and the company outside court which offered an amount of $ 470 million to the victims.

He also argued in the famous case of the Supreme Court AoR Association, in which the Supreme Court took over the appointment of judges in the Higher Judiciary. He also appeared in many important cases like Golak Nath, S.P. Gupta, T.M.A. Pai Foundation.

Nariman represented the Gujarat Government in the matter of the Narmada rehabilitation but resigned shortly after attacks on Christians in the area and the burning of copies of the Bible.

In December 2009 the Committee on Judicial Accountability stated that it considered that recommendations for judicial appointments should only be made after a public debate, including review by members of the bar of the affected high courts. This statement was made in relation to controversy about the appointments of justices C. K. Prasad and P. D. Dinakaran. The statement was signed by Ram Jethmalani, Shanti Bhushan, Fali Sam Nariman, Anil B. Divan, Kamini Jaiswal and Prashant Bhushan. In October 2014, he appeared for the former chief minister of Tamil Nadu J Jayalalithaa in a conviction and obtained bail for her which was earlier rejected.

(IPA Service)




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