New Delhi, May 30 (PTI) Rich and glowing tributes were paid to distinguished jurist and former attorney general Soli Sorabjee in a virtual memorial held on Sunday, exactly a month after his passing away, with Chief Justice of India N V Ramana terming him 'the greatest legal mind, an advocate for the rule of law and a champion of constitutional rights'. Sorabjee, 91, a Padma Vibhushan recipient, passed away due to COVID-19 on April 30 at a private hospital here. Condoling his demise, the CJI said a true tribute to him would be to continue upholding constitutional values, fundamental rights and freedom. 'Apart from his courtroom genius, Soli was an epitome of grace, modesty, humility, integrity and kindness, which always stood out to me. He lived his life wholly on his terms and pursued his diverse passions with great energy. He left an indelible mark on many,' the CJI said. Sorabjee, who had appeared in several landmark cases like Kesavananda Bharati and S R Bommai, was remembered by the CJI as a distinguished jurist, one of the best legal minds, defender of civil liberties and someone who inspired him to continue in the profession . 'It is difficult to accept that it has already been a month since we lost one of the best legal minds, an advocate for the rule of law and a champion of constitutional rights. He was a defender of civil liberties during the Emergency era,' the CJI said during the memorial service.
'A true tribute to Soli would be to continue to uphold the constitutional values, the fundamental rights and freedom that are essential for human existence in a civilized society...He was a man with an unflinching faith in the constitutional ideals, particularly those relating to the freedom of speech and human rights,' Justice Ramana said. Sorabjee played a crucial role in some of the most iconic cases which defined the legal landscape of this nation, the CJI said, further emphasizing that the eminent jurist also crafted India's jurisprudence. 'He was a defender of civil liberties during the tough Emergency era. He played a crucial role in some of the most iconic cases which have defined the legal landscape of this great nation,' he said. Besides the CJI, Supreme Court justices U U Lalit and D Y Chandrachud and eminent lawyers, Harish Salve, Gopal Subramanium and S Ganesh, also paid homage to the departed soul in the memorial organised by Sorabjee's family that was webcast on the All India Reporter's YouTube channel and its official Facebook Page.
Justice Lalit, who was also present at the memorial service, remembered him as a multifaceted person who was full of life, while Justice DY Chandrachud recalled him as a fearless crusader for human freedom and an abundant mimic. Justice Lalit said that one specific area which was dear to Sorabjee was freedom of expression, free press and Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution and it was that fortress which he zealously guarded and put in all his energy in keeping all obstructions at bay.
'He was the best guardian of that fortress. He was not only a versatile counsel but also a great music enthusiast, loved english poetry, horse racing, was a companion of rights of the minorities and a human rights activist. He was a multifaceted person who was full of life,' he said. Besides this, Justice Chandrachud said that one was always in awe to enter his chamber and if someone had a cold, they ran the risk of being thrown out of the chamber. 'It is ironic that it was the virus which got him in the end,' he rued. Justice Chandrachud added, 'What marks out Soli's career is the transformation from being a top quality professional of the Bombay Bar to this citizen of the nation which Delhi brought about in him. When he moved to Delhi, he ceased to be just an eminent lawyer and became a true citizen of the nation.' Senior advocate Salve said that Sorabjee was a 'genius in law' and had the 'mind of a jurist and the heart of a lawyer'.
While senior advocate Gopal Subramanium termed Sorabjee the greatest Indian lawyer after the second world war, another senior advocate Arvind Datar said, 'If we have a hall of fame for lawyers, Mr Sorabjee will be at the top of it. If we live upto his method of advocacy, then it will be a tribute to Mr Sorabjee.' Sorabjee appeared in many important cases including the Kesavananda Bharati matter on basic structure doctrine and the S R Bommai matter relating to invocation of President's rule in the states.
A recipient of the Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award of the country, the renowned human rights lawyer served as the attorney general of India from 1989-90 and then from 1998-2004 during the tenure of V P Singh and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, respectively. PTI AAK SJK AAR AAR