Justice Rohinton Nariman Retires

One of the nation’s most formidable legal stalwarts – Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, the second-most senior judge of the Supreme Court, retired on 12th August, 2021, post his seven year tenure as Judge. Having disposed of nearly 13,565 cases, Justice Nariman practised as an advocate for over 35 years and was only the fifth lawyer to be directly appointed as judge of the Supreme Court in 2014.

He is known for having delivered several landmark verdicts, including the declaration of ‘Privacy As A Fundamental Right’ and striking down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act that empowered the police to arrest citizens for their social media posts. In addition, he was also part of the Supreme Court judgement that ended the colonial-era law criminalising homosexuality and a five-judge bench that ruled women, between 10 and 50 years, cannot be stopped from entering the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala.

Bidding a heartfelt farewell, Chief Justice of India, N V Ramana said that the judiciary would miss his immense knowledge and intellect. “With brother Nariman’s retirement, I feel like I am losing one of the lions that guarded the judicial institution; one of the strong pillars of the contemporary judicial system. He is a man of principles and is committed to what is right. He has left an indelible mark on the jurisprudence of the country,” he said.

Known for his deep passion in history, philosophy, literature and science, Justice Nariman’s legal acumen is not the only reason why he’s been a favourite with his colleagues, both – in the bar and the bench! His plain-speaking, both inside and outside the court, and an ordained Parsi priest sets him apart, as a judge. He is adept at performing marriages and Navjotes!

In his book, Nariman’s father and eminent jurist, Fali S Nariman, wrote that since his family was ‘priestly’, his wife made sure the son got ordained as a priest at the young age of 12. Writing further, the senior lawyer said that Justice Nariman had performed the Navjote ceremony of his sister Anaheeta in Mumbai.

Born on October 13, 1956, Justice Nariman became a senior advocate at the age of 37. In 1993, the then Chief Justice of India, M N Venkatachalaiah amended the court’s rules to designate him as a senior advocate at the age of 37, from the mandatory 45. He was appointed the Solicitor General in 2011 (till 2013). Justice Nariman graduated from Shri Ram College of Commerce and completed his Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Delhi, before going on to pursue his Masters in Law from Harvard Law School and writing his thesis on ‘Affirmative Action: A Comparison Between The Indian And Us Constitutional Law’. He had also practised maritime law in New York for a year, before he joined the Bar as an advocate in 1979.

Fostering a deep knowledge about western classical music, Justice Nariman is reckoned for his eclectic pursuits. He is also a best-selling author. In his first book – ‘The Inner Fire: Faith, Choice, and Modern-Day Living in Zoroastrianism’, he shares an indepth analysis of the 238 verses of the holy Gathas. In his second book, Justice Nariman traces, explores and analyses all dissenting judgments in the history of the Supreme Court of India. The book is scheduled to be published in two volumes by Penguin. His commitment to fitness makes him a regular morning walker, often spotted at Delhi’s Lodhi Garden.

On his last working day on 12th August, Justice Nariman sat with the Chief Justice in Supreme Court’s ‘Court Number 1’, as is the tradition for retiring judges.

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