Eminent jurist Fali S Nariman passes away at 95

Nariman was the President of the Bar Association of India from 1991 to 2010. He was awarded Padma Bhushan in 1991 and Padma Vibhushan in 2007.
shish Tripathi
Last Updated : 21 February 2024, 03:05 IST
Last Updated : 21 February 2024, 03:05 IST

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New Delhi: Eminent jurist and constitutional expert Fali S Nariman passed away here on Wednesday. He was 95.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Droupadi Murmu led the country in paying tributes to the legendary lawyer, regarded as the 'Bhishma Pitamah' in legal circle.

Nariman breathed his last around after the midnight on Wednesday. He was suffering from multiple ailments, including cardiac issues.

Modi wrote on X, "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."

In her tribute, President Murmu said, "I am saddened to learn that Fali Nariman, a titan among legal luminaries, is no more. Among the wisest experts on our Constitution, he was also a globally respected jurist. He served the nation in various roles, including as a member of the Rajya Sabha, with equal dedication. His contributions in enriching constitutional practices and strengthening legal system will be remembered for long."

Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud said, "We really mourn his sad demise. He was a great giant of law."

Born on January 10, 1929 in British Burma, Nariman's parents brought him to the country in February, 1942 after the Japanese Army bombed Rangoon. After his schooling in the Junior Cambridge class of Bishop Cotton School in Shimla, he did his graduation (BA Hons) in second class from St Xavier's College Mumbai (1944-48). He then joined Government Law College, University of Mumbai, picking a law career.

Nariman started his law practice after joining the Bombay Bar in November, 1950. He was designated as a senior advocate in 1971.

Nariman was appointed as Additional Solicitor General in May, 1972, which made him to shift from Mumbai to Delhi but he resigned in June 1975 in protest against imposition of Emergency.

Due to his services, he was awarded with Padma Bhushan in 1991 and Padma Vibhushan in 2007.

During his over his seven-decade long practice, Nariman has been part of several landmark constitutional bench decisions, including Golak Nath, related to judicial review of the constitutional amendments, T M A Pai on right of minorities to establish educational institutions and those related to Collegium system of appointment of judges and the NJAC. He also assisted N A Palkhiwala in famous Kesavanand Bharati case related to basic structure doctrine of the Constitution.

He represented Karnataka for three decades in its vexed dispute with Tamil Nadu over sharing of Cauvery river water. He was also a nominated member of Rajya Sabha.

He is survived by son, Rohinton F Nariman, former Supreme Court judge, daughter-in-law Sanaya Nariman and daughter Anaheeta. Nariman's wife Bapsi died in year 2020.

His burial would take place at Parsi Aramgah, here at 10 am on Thursday.

In his message, former Chief Justice of India N V Ramana said, "Never known for mincing words, Nariman has been a conscience keeper for judicial institutions. Through his arguments in court rooms, widely read news paper columns, public lectures, parliamentary interventions and televised interviews he has educated generations of legal professionals and general public alike."

In her remarks, senior advocate Indira Jaising said, "Nariman was the last of a generation of lawyers from Bombay who shaped and moulded the history of constitutional law in India. A voice that stood by secular values, for the independence of the judiciary."

Senior advocate A M Singhvi wrote in passing of Fali Nariman, it was the end of an era.

"He was a living legend who will forever be in hearts and minds of those in law and public life. Above all his diverse achievements, he stuck to his principles unwaveringly and called a spade a spade, a quality shared by his brilliant son," he wrote on X.

Singhvi recalled, as a raconteur and 'after dinner' speaker, Fali was matchless.

"It was he who said that using phrase 'horse trading' when humans defect is an insult to horses — very loyal animals. He would dig out nuggets of history and marry them incomparably with his wit when speaking," he said.

Former Law Minister and senior advocate Kapil Sibal said, "Not just one of the greatest lawyers of our country but one of the finest human beings who stood like a colossus above all. The corridors of the court will never be the same without him."

Noted advocate Prashant Bhushan said Nariman was regarded as the 'Bhishma Pitamah' of the lawyers community. "His passing away at this critical juncture is a great loss for our country," he said.

He also posted on X a letter sent by Nariman to him congratulating him on February 16 for the "well deserved victory" over the recent SC's decision declaring the electoral bonds as unconstitutional.

Published 21 February 2024, 03:05 IST

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