When many fell silent in difficult times, Fali Nariman was nation’s voice: CJI DY Chandrachud


April 4, 2024

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The CJI was speaking at a full-court reference held at the Supreme Court today in honour of Fali Nariman, who passed away on February 21, 2024.


Article by Debayan Roy | Bar And Bench

Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud on Thursday spoke about the impact that late veteran jurist and Senior Advocate Fali S Nariman had during tumultuous periods in the India’s history.

The CJI emphasized that Nariman was a mentor to many lawyers and judges, and that he never minced words when he critiqued judgments.

“I had received a letter just before he (Fali Nariman) passed away on a recent Constitution Bench judgment. When many voices fell silent in difficult times, his strong baritone was the voice of the nation. His memory will always serve as a guiding light for many who serve the cause of justice in this court,” CJI Chandrachud said.

The CJI was speaking at a full-court reference held at the Supreme Court of India today in honour of Fali Nariman, who passed away on February 21, 2024.

Nariman’s unflinching ethics, indomitable courage and unwavering pursuit of principle provided a balm to the soul of not just the profession but even our nation, the CJI said in his address.

Reflecting on Nariman’s illustrious career, the CJI highlighted his exceptional legal acumen and his commitment to serving the cause of justice.

“When the emergency was imposed, ASG Nariman (as he then was) resigned and he was guided by the question on whether the imposition of emergency was correct. Despite appearing for several clients across various political dispensations, he believed the primary duty was to serve the court of law,” CJI Chandrachud remarked.

The CJI also recounted Nariman’s role in several landmark cases, including his advocacy for the rights of minority educational institutions, which culminated in the TMA Pai judgment. The judgment in the Navtej Singh Johar case vindicated Nariman’s stance that consensual sex between adults could not be criminalised, the CJI highlighted.

“Grand old men only die, but never fade away,” the CJI went on to observe, while concluding his tribute to the veteran lawyer.

Senior Advocate Nariman passed away on the morning of February 21. He was 95 years old.

Through the course of a legal career that lasted more than seven decades, Nariman commanded the respect of one and all at the Bar and the Bench.

After graduating from the Government Law College, Mumbai in 1950, Nariman began his practice at the Bombay High Court. He was designated as a Senior Advocate in 1971. That year, he shifted to Delhi to practice at the Supreme Court of India.

In 1971, Nariman was appointed as Additional Solicitor General by the Indira Gandhi government. He resigned from this post in 1975 when the national emergency was imposed.

A lawyer who was always true to his conscience, Nariman would later resign from representing the Gujarat government in the Project Narmada case after attacks on Christians in the State.

In an interview with Bar & Bench back in 2010, he said the following on the need to maintain personal values and ethics in the legal profession:

Law is a matter of the heart, as well as the head. You have to have compassion; it is one of the greatest qualities.