ORMER Attorney General for India, veteran senior advocate and jazz and poetry enthusiast, Soli Jehangir Sorabjee died this morning after being infected with Covid19. He was 91.
Sorabjee, a recipient of Padma Vibhushan and an eminent jurist, was born on March 9, 1930, in Bombay to a Parsi family. He enrolled as an advocate in 1953 and was designated as a senior advocate in 1971. He served as Solicitor-General of India from 1977 to 1980 and Attorney-General for India from December 9, 1989 to December 2, 1990, and then again on 7 April 1998, a post he held until 2004.
Speaking to the Leaflet, senior advocate Indira Jaising said the generation of pre-Independence lawyers is passing.
“Twice Attorney General for India, Soli Sorabjee distinguished himself in several ways. His commitment to free speech found international recognition in different forums”, Jaising added.
Recalling the Bhopal gas tragedy, Jaising said Sorabjee’s fierce defence of the Bhopal gas victims in questioning the reopening of the Supreme court-mandated settlement was one of the high water-marks of his career. He had the criminal prosecution against Union Carbide and its directors reopened on the ground that such crimes could not be compromised between the parties
He leaves behind a loving family which includes his wife, sons and his distinguished daughter-lawyer Zia Mody.
“Several of his generations have passed, post-independence lawyers will remember him and carry forward his legacy”, Jaising said.
The Leaflet also spoke to senior advocate Mohan Katarki who said Sorabjee was a great orator and passionate Jazz lover. He was extraordinarily persuasive in the court. His legal notes under the caption “Soliloquies” were known for brevity and clarity, said Katraki.
Speaking to the Leaflet, Advocate-on-Record at Supreme Court Sunil Fernandes said “Soli Sorabjee was an illustrious member of a golden generation of Super-Senior Advocates of the Supreme Court who played a crucial role in the Supreme Court’s development of Constitutional jurisprudence in India”.
“His brilliant legal acumen may have won hundreds of cases of seminal importance in his six decades-old legal practise but Soli shall always be remembered by those fortunate to see him in practice for his total fairness to the court, courtesy to his opponents, his charisma, his sense of humour and most importantly – his ability to speak truth to power”, Fernandes added.
No matter how high or mighty his client was, he had the integrity and courage to give the correct albeit unpalatable advice, Fernandes said.
Senior advocate Sanjoy Ghose told the Leaflet “as the legal fraternity loses Soli Sorabjee to Covid, we are less one more from that dying breed of old school lawyers who left debate and discord at the courtroom and never carried it outside, who believed that law indeed was a noble profession and who believed that lawyers have no caste, creed or colour expect their commitment as officers of the court”.
“Soli, the man, loved his jazz. He loved the company of young people and he lived the good life. Louis Amstrong the greatest Jazz player once had said “If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know”. Same goes for Soli Sorabjee”, Ghose said.
Sorabjee had been part of various landmark cases, including Keshavananda Bharati vs. the State of Kerala; Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India; S.R. Bommai vs. Union of India; IR Coehlo vs. State of Tamil Nadu etc.
Last year Sorabjee had criticised the Supreme Court’s contempt proceedings against advocate Prashant Bhushan. He said the court overreacted by taking action against Bhushan for his tweets.