Soli Sorabjee, a legend in the legal fraternity, passes aged 91.
By Flywork.io Team May 01, 2021
By: Adil Zawahir, Flywork.io Team, Flywork.io.
Former Attorney General of India, Soli Jehangir Sorabjee, passed away on Friday, 30th April 2021 after one final battle against COVID-19 at the age of 91. Sorabjee was bestowed with the Padma Vibhushan award in 2002 for his unrelenting efforts towards the promotion of human rights and freedom of speech.
Sorabjee was appointed as Attorney General of India first in 1989 under the National Front Government and was reappointed in 1998 when the National Democratic Alliance came to power for the first time, where he continued until they were voted out of power in 2004.
Sorabjee's legacy, however, will primarily be remembered for his tenure as a lawyer in several landmark judgement's that have defined India as we know it today. He began his career at the Bombay High Court in 1954. In 1972, he, along with renowned lawyers Fali S Nariman and Nani Palkhivala, appeared in front of the Supreme Court in what was the longest heard case before it. This was the Keshavanand Bharti case, which laid down that the "basic structure" of the Constitution is unamendable. In 1978 he appeared as Solicitor General of India in the Maneka Gandhi case, where the court upheld the sacrosanct nature of the right of personal liberty granted under Article 21. Sorabjee was also the petitioner's lawyer in the SR Bommai case, in which the court held that the President's power to dismiss a state government is not absolute. The longevity of his career is highlighted by the 2010 case, BP Singhal v Union of India, which laid down that governors cannot be removed merely because there has been a change in government.
He was vocal about his opinions on censorship orders and bans on publications. This is seen in his publications "The Laws of Press Censorship in India (1976)" and "The Emergency, Censorship and the Press in India, 1975-77 (1977)".
Sorabjee took up pro bono cases for the Citizen's Justice Committee in the aftermath of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. His presence on the international stage was not menial either. In 1997, he was appointed by the UN as a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Nigeria. Later, in 1998, he was appointed as the Chairman of the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, where he served for six years. He also served as a Permanent Court of Arbitration member at The Hague from 2000 to 2006.
Sorabjee's demeanour and conduct earned the praise of the entire legal community. His erudite columns to newspapers highlighted his ability to simplify complex questions pertaining to the Constitution and law in layman's terms. His dedication to his profession is what earned him his respect. The Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, The President, Ram Nath Kovind, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, NV Ramana, have all expressed their grief over the demise of the champion of human rights. The entire legal fraternity will dearly miss him.