Legendary Legal Icon Fali Nariman Passes Away

The nation’s legendary legal icon and the community’s pride – veteran senior Supreme Court lawyer and eminent jurist – Fali Sam Nariman, passed away in his sleep, early morning, on 21st February, 2024, at age 95. He was buried at the Parsi Aramgarh the next day and the Uthamna was held at the Delhi Parsi Anjuman.

Born in Rangoon (Yangon) on 10th January, 1929, to Banoo and Sam Nariman, Fali Nariman completed schooling from Bishop Cotton School (Shimla), followed by a Bachelor’s in Arts from St. Xavier’s College (Mumbai), and graduating in Law from Mumbai’s Government Law College, in 1950. Enrolling as an advocate of the Bombay High Court in November 1950, and designated senior advocate in 1961, Nariman practised law for over seven decades – in the Bombay High Court for 22 years, before becoming a Senior Advocate in the Supreme Court in 1971, and being appointed Additional Solicitor General of India, in May 1972, when he shifted to the capital for good.

A distinguished constitutional lawyer, Fali Nariman argued several landmark cases, including the famous NJAC (the National Judicial Appointments Commission) verdict; also appearing in the SC AoR Association case, which led to the collegium system, the TMA Pai case on the scope of minority rights under Article 30), etc. A fierce proponent of civil liberties and secularism, Nariman’s erudite opinions on judicial development were greatly respected.

Appointed the Additional Solicitor General of India in 1972, he resigned in 1975 in protest against the then PM Indira Gandhi-ruled government’s decision to declare emergency. While he did not take up another government post after this, he spearheaded virtually every leading constitutional law case over the next twenty years, and continued reigning as one of India’s most sought-after lawyers. A firm believer in the independence of the judiciary, he believed that the right to dissent was non-negotiable and essential to an effective democracy.

Condolence messages and rich tributes from Indian leaders and stalwarts poured in unceasingly. “Not only the legal fraternity, but the nation has lost a towering figure of intellect and wisdom. 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… 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,” shared Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta, in a media statement.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared on social media, “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,” Rahul Gandhi wrote, “(Fali Nariman’s) demise leaves a profound void in the legal community. His contributions have not only shaped landmark cases, but have also inspired generations of jurists to uphold the sanctity of our Constitution and civil liberties. May his commitment to justice and fairness continue to guide us, even in his absence.”

He was honoured with the Padma Bhushan (1991) and Padma Vibhushan (2007) for his unparalleled jurisprudence, and was also a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha (1999 – 2005). His autobiography, ‘Before Memory Fades’ (2012) was widely read and proved inspiring especially among law students and lawyers. Other books authored, include ‘The State of Nation’ and ‘God Save The Hon’ble Supreme Court’.

Leaving his indelible imprint forever on the international legal scene with his profound wisdom, Nariman is survived by his son and former Supreme Court judge – Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, daughter-in-law Sanaya, and daughter – Anaheeta; grandchildren – Nina, Khursheed and Rohan; and great-grandchildren – Zarina and Cyrus. His wife, Bapsi Nariman, passed away in 2020. As the nation, the legal fraternity and the community mourns the loss of one of the greatest legal luminaries, we pray for his elevated soul to rest in eternal peace. Garothman Behest Hojoji!

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