Covid robbed former Lawyer Common Soli Sorabjee the chance to watch his 90th birthday in March final yr. It was an occasion that he was wanting ahead to with a lot anticipation, and may have celebrated a milestone in a really exceptional life in legislation, human rights, press freedom and humanity. However with the variety of Covid instances rising sharply, the celebratory dinner needed to be unexpectedly cancelled two days earlier than the occasion. This yr, there have been festivities however on a subdued be aware, and the second was by no means correctly celebrated as Sorabjee deserved.
Sorabjee was a heat, genteel, mental practitioner of the legislation of a distinct period the place information and the interpretation of the statutes have been the overriding consideration. The place arguments have been laced with wit, polish and erudition. For Sorabjee, the legislation was a calling and cash was by no means the prime motive, as it’s for a lot of main legal professionals as we speak. A Parsi who educated on the Bombay Regulation School, he was a up to date of others from the Bombay establishment resembling Fali Nariman, Ashok Desai, and Murli Bhandare. The luminaries from the Bombay Bar then dominated the Supreme Court docket.
Sorabjee who adopted within the footsteps of his mentor Nani Palkhivala, made a big contribution to the interpretation of constitutional legislation in impartial India. He was a champion of free speech and residents’ civil liberties, and assisted Palkhivala within the landmark Golaknath and Keshavananda Bharati instances. The judgments in these two instances protected the rights of the person, whether or not prince or pauper, towards the state.
The genial Sorabjee usually supplied his providers without spending a dime, working professional bono. Through the Emergency, he offered authorized help to many political prisoners arrested beneath the draconian MISA. It was a difficult time, and he lived beneath the shadow of potential imprisonment. He as soon as recalled to me jokingly that his younger son Hormazd was terrified that he would convey shame on the household by being despatched to jail.
Palkhivala and he have been left surprised by the extraordinary suspension of elementary rights together with the correct to life by the Supreme Court docket in the course of the Emergency in a 4-1 order within the habeas corpus matter. Sorabjee firmly believed judges after retirement ought to steer clear of political positions within the Rajya Sabha and elsewhere.
Sorabjee lent his providers without spending a dime to Sikhs in Delhi after the 1984 riots. One other vital case he represented was the milestone St Xavier’s School, Ahmedabad petition towards Gujarat state, which upheld the rights of minority our bodies to arrange and run their very own academic establishments.
The Maneka Gandhi passport case of 1979 the place the courts held that an individual’s elementary proper entails that she or he can’t be denied a passport with out ascribing a purpose was argued when Sorabjee was Further Solicitor Common.
In 1989, he fought the dismissal of then Chief Minister S R Bommai by Karnataka Governor Buta Singh beneath orders from a hostile Central Authorities. This judgment has come to be the litmus check for assessing the constitutionality of Article 356. Because of this single order, the misuse of this text to dismiss inconvenient state governments has drastically decreased.
Sorabjee served as Lawyer Common between 1998 and 2004. He was Particular Consultant to the United Nations Human Rights Fee, and has served as a member of the Everlasting Court docket of Arbitration on the Hague. He was a life trustee of the India Worldwide Centre.
Sorabjee was born in an prosperous enterprise household, however he was by no means drawn to a industrial profession. His pursuits have been extra in English literature and poetry, and he might reel off the verses of the nice English poets, usually spouting a quote to buttress his argument. He had a hilarious sense of humour and was a terrific mimic.
One other fascinating facet of his multi-faceted persona was his deep curiosity in jazz, a love for which, he recalled, he picked up fairly by chance. He started life as a classical music fanatic, however by mistake the salesperson at Bombay’s iconic Rhythm Home dispatched to him a report of Benny Goodman as a substitute of the Brahms Hungarian Rhapsodies that he had ordered. He discovered the unfamiliar notes intriguing, and slowly developed an abiding ardour for jazz. He was president of the Delhi Jazz Affiliation for a few years. And at his birthday dinners, you met a really different set of individuals from many alternative walks of life.
Sorabjee leaves behind his spouse Zena, a devoted Bahai social employee, his daughter Zia Mody, head of the main authorized agency AZB, his son Hormazd, who edits a preferred auto journal, and one other son Jehangir, who’s a number one physician. Sorabjee was a recipient of the Padma Vibhushan.
As a senior counsel, Sorabjee generously mentored and promoted a lot of his juniors who rose in later life to key positions. Harish Salve began out as a junior in his chamber.