Lesser-known facts about Fali S Nariman, senior SC Advocate, who died at 95

He argued several landmark cases in the Supreme Court, such as the Kesavananda Bharati case, which established the basic structure doctrine of the Constitution.

| Updated: 21 February, 2024 5:49 pm IST

NEW DELHI: The entire nation is currently mourning the loss of Fali S Nariman, an eminent jurist and senior advocate of the Supreme Court, who passed away on Wednesday at the age of 95. He was known for his expertise in constitutional law and international arbitration, and his unwavering commitment to civil rights and secularism.

His funeral will take place at 10 am on Thursday at the Parsi Aramgah in New Delhi, where he will be laid to rest with full honours.

Taking to microblogging site X on Wednesday, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi said it was “an end of an era”.

End of an era—#falinariman passes away, a living legend who wl forever be in hearts &minds of those in law &public life. Above all his diverse achievements, he stuck to his principles unwaveringly &called a spade a spade, a quality shared by his brilliant son #Rohinton,” he tweeted, referring to Nariman, who was a sitting judge of the Supreme Court.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also paid tribute to Nariman, calling him “among the most outstanding legal minds and intellectuals”.

“He devoted his life to making justice accessible to common citizens. I am pained by his passing away. My thoughts are with his family and admirers. May his soul rest in peace,” the PM said in a post on X.

Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud also expressed his grief over Nariman’s death, saying he was “a great giant of an intellectual.”

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“He was a man of immense learning, wisdom, and courage, who enriched the constitutional jurisprudence and the legal profession with his brilliance and integrity. He was a mentor and an inspiration to generations of lawyers, who learned from his eloquence and humility. He was a friend and a guide to many, who will miss his presence and his voice,” the Chief Justice said in a statement.

Nariman was born to a Parsi family in Myanmar on January 10, 1929. He graduated in Economics and History from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, followed by a law degree from the Government Law College, Mumbai in 1950, after standing first in the examination and being awarded the Kinloch Forbes Gold Medal and Prize for Roman Law and Jurisprudence.

He started his law practice at the Bombay High Court in 1950. When he was 38 years old, below the minimum qualifying age, he declined an invitation to be a judge of the High Court.

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He moved to Delhi in 1972 and became a senior advocate of the Supreme Court in 1971. He was appointed as the Additional Solicitor General of India in 1972, but resigned from the post in protest of the Emergency declared by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1975.

He was the President of the Bar Association of India from 1991 to 2010, and the Vice-Chairman of the International Court of Arbitration of the ICC (International Chamber of Commerce) Paris from 1989 to 2005. He also served as the President of the International Council for Commercial Arbitration and chaired the Executive Committee of the International Commission of Jurists, Geneva, from 1995 to 1997.

He was a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of the Parliament of India, for a term from 1999 to 2005.

He argued several landmark cases in the Supreme Court, such as the Kesavananda Bharati case, which established the basic structure doctrine of the Constitution, the S.P. Gupta case, which challenged the judicial appointments system, and the Bhopal gas tragedy case, which sought compensation and relief for the victims of the industrial disaster.

He was a recipient of some of the country’s highest civilian awards, including the Padma Bhushan in 1991 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2007.

In his condolence message, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that “not only the legal fraternity but the nation has lost a towering figure of intellect and wisdom”.

The Solicitor General went on to say that he “always learnt something new by merely appearing even against” Nariman.

“Sharing the homemade buttermilk brought by me from my home in the Supreme Court corridors while he regaled all of us with many past anecdotes in Gujarati is a cherished memory for me, though he used to come only occasionally since the last few years,” he added.

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