By Ssangeeta Sharma
Legal fraternity reminisces the role of Soli Sorabjee as a champion for freedom of speech and expression, protection of human rights.
New Delhi, May 8(ILNS) The Society of India Law Firms (SILF) held a virtual condolence meeting to pay tributes to senior advocate Soli J. Sorabjee, who passed away on April 30, 2021. The meeting was attended by the top lawyers of the country, SILF office bearers, and advocates, among others. Mr Sorabjee served as Attorney-General for India from 1989 to 1990, and again from 1998 to 2004. He was known to champion the cause of freedom of speech and expression and the protection of human rights for which he received the Padma Vibhushan in 2002. During his long career in the legal profession spread over almost seven decades, Mr Sorabjee appeared in many landmark cases that shaped the constitutional history of India. A jazz lover, Mr Sorabjee wrote regularly for newspapers and magazines.
The Attorney General for India, Shri KK Venugopal and Mr. Fali S Nariman, Senior Advocate and President Emeritus, Bar Association of India, were among the first to pay their condolences. Many of his friends/colleagues regaled the gathering with interesting anecdotes and little-known facts about Mr Sorabjee. Legal luminaries including Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General of India; Vikas Singh, President, Supreme Court Bar Association; Kapil Sibal, Senior Advocate and former Union Minister; Harish Salve, Senior Advocate and Queen’s Counsel; Justice Mukul Mudgal; Prashant Kumar, President, Bar Association of India; Darius Khambata, Senior Advocate, and former Advocate General, Maharashtra; Dr. Ashok Sharma, FCIarb and Founder and CEO, Federation of Indian Corporate Lawyers; Dr. Manoj Kumar, Managing Partner, Hammurabi and Solomon, Vice President, Society of Indian Law Firms; Prof. (Dr.) R. Venkata Rao, Chairperson, Vivekananda School of Law and Legal Studies; and Ms. Zia Mody, advocate and daughter of Late Shri Soli Sorabjee attended the virtual gathering to pay tributes to the eminent jurist.
In his message, Dr Lalit Bhasin, President SILF, said, “Mr Sorabjee was an outstanding lawyer and intellectual who was at the forefront of helping the poor and the downtrodden. We lost an icon of India’s legal system. He was among the select few who deeply influenced the evolution of Constitutional law and the justice system. Our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and fans.”
Attorney General K K Venugopal, said, “Soli was a fine lawyer. His demise is a huge loss to the legal field. He was a man of great ideas and a believer and a champion of freedom of speech and expression. His body of work, spread over nearly seven decades, in defending fundamental rights and human rights is of international repute. He will be remembered as a legend who added strength to the pillars of democracy. I pay my deep respect to the departed soul.”
Noted jurist Fali S Nariman recounted his time spent with Soli Sorabjee and their times together from the period when they worked together in Mumbai and their enduring friendship. Mr Nariman and Mr Soli Sorabjee were contemporaries, rivals, and friends. They both worked in the chambers of Jamshedji Kanga also known as the “grand old man of the Bombay Bar”.
Lawyer and politician Kapil Sibal who knew him closely, said, “Soli was an extraordinary lawyer. His contributions in the field of individual liberties are something that will always be remembered by the people who were close to these causes. I don’t think there has been any lawyer who has been as persuasive in the matters of personal liberty.”
He also added, “When the Janata Government of Morarji Desai came to power, he became Solicitor General of India, where his skillful handling of the Maneka Gandhi passport case, led to the broadening of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.”
Mr Harish Salve, Senior Advocate and Queen’s Counsel, said, “Sorabjee always treated him as his ‘fifth born’. He was an outstanding performer not only in court, but in various fields including human rights, international relations, and jazz music. He had a huge range of friends and acquaintances, who had received from him many kindnesses and favours. If he called someone on your behalf, your work was done. He knew whom to call for which work and on whose behalf.”
Leading corporate lawyer Zia Mody and daughter of Soli Sorabjee recalled, “Daddy would never remember anything that he didn’t want to. He would switch off the minute he didn’t think it was relevant. In the early days, when papa was seeing that I was not getting many briefs, and I was getting agitated, he would advise me not to waste my time in the law chamber. Instead he asked me to spend time in courts, getting to know judges. He would say, if you don’t know your judge you can’t argue a case properly.”
She concluded on a personal note, “We say bye bye to my father physically, but I do hope that we will always, cherish each and every memory that we have of him.”
SILF is a collective of India’s top corporate law firms and it’s the only body that represents their interests not only in the country but across the world. It consists of 100 Law Firms with more than 3000 lawyers which represent the world’s leading corporate houses and business entities.