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Legal Doyen Fali S Nariman Passes Away

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Staff Writer, TLR

Published on February 21, 2024, 13:11:19

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Indian lawyer, Fali Sam Nariman, international lawyer, Delhi, death

Eminent Indian constitutional jurist Fali Sam Nariman, whose profound wisdom left an indelible mark on the international legal scene, passed away in Delhi on Wednesday at the age of 95.

Sources close to the family said that he peacefully passed away around 1:15 am, having not been unwell, and he died in his sleep.

Nariman is survived by his son, former Supreme Court judge Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, daughter-in-law Sanaya, and daughter Anaheeta. His wife, Bapsi Nariman, passed away in 2020.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta mourned Nariman's passing and fondly recalled the professional and personal rapport he shared with the senior jurist. Mehta remarked: “The country has lost the epitome of what righteousness stood for. A doyen, paragon and a legend in his lifetime, he has left us the jurisprudence enriched by his immense contribution. I have always learned something new by merely appearing even against him."

Reflecting on their interactions, Mehta shared a cherished memory of sharing homemade buttermilk in the Supreme Court corridors while Nariman regaled them with past anecdotes in Gujarati. Despite Nariman's infrequent appearances in recent years, Mehta valued Nariman's gesture of sending him all the books he authored with his autograph, considering it a proud possession for himself and future generations.

"The legal fraternity is intellectually poorer today. Such intellectual giants do not die. They remain immortal through their contribution. There cannot be and will not be another Fali Nariman,” concluded Mehta.

"Fali S. Nariman's legacy shines bright as a guiding spirit within our legal landscape. His loss is deeply felt, not just by the legal fraternity but by our entire nation. India and the International legal community have lost a towering figure of intellect and wisdom. May his soul rest in peace," said Sunil Ambalavelil, Chairman of Dubai-based NYK Law Firm.

 Imprint on Constitutional Law

Born in Rangoon (now Yangon) on January 10, 1929, to Sam Bariyamji Nariman and Banoo Nariman, Nariman initially studied in Shimla before his family relocated to Bombay (now Mumbai). He graduated in law from the Government Law College, Bombay, in 1950, and commenced his law practice at the Bombay High Court, coinciding with the Constitution's enactment in Independent India. In 1971, he achieved the status of Senior Advocate in the Supreme Court.

After practicing for 22 years in the Bombay High Court, Nariman transitioned to Delhi, where he continued his legal career. Despite being appointed as the Additional Solicitor General of India by the Congress government in 1972, he resigned from the post two days after the imposition of Emergency.

 Pivotal Figure

Subsequently, Nariman became a pivotal figure in numerous landmark cases that shaped Indian constitutional law. His notable contributions include his advocacy for the Collegium system of appointing judges, evident in landmark cases such as the 1993 Second Judges case, the Third Judges case in 1998, and the 2015 challenge to the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC).

A staunch advocate for judicial independence, Nariman vehemently opposed the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, asserting that it would compromise the judiciary's independence. He championed the right to dissent as non-negotiable and essential for a functioning democracy.

In 2012, Nariman published his autobiography, "Before Memory Fades." He received national recognition with the Padma Bhushan in 1991 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2007. Additionally, he served as a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha from 1999 to 2005.

Leaders Mourn

The passing of esteemed Fali Sam Nariman has sent shockwaves through the nation, with social media flooded with tributes and condolences. Lauded as a "Bhishma Pitamah of Lawyer community," Nariman's legacy is being celebrated by lawyers, politicians, and citizens alike.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi remembered Nariman as an “outstanding legal mind and intellectual."

“Shri Fali Nariman Ji was 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," PM Modi said in a post on X.

Former Congress party chief Rahul Gandhi said  Fali Sam Nariman’s contributions have not only shaped landmark cases, but also inspired generations of jurists to uphold the sanctity of the Constitution and civil liberties.
"May his commitment to justice and fairness continue to guide us, even in his absence," Gandhi said.

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