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Fali S. Nariman, Senior Supreme Court Lawyer, Dies at 95: A Look at His Landmark Cases

Prominent legal scholar and senior High Court advocate Fali Nariman passed on today. He was 95. This morning, Fali Nariman passed away at his home in Delhi. The prominent legal scholar was granted Padma Bhushan in 1991 and Padma Vibhusham in 2007.

Fali Nariman began his training as legal counselor at the Bombay High Court and later moved to Delhi. He was delegated the Specialist General of India in 1972, yet he surrendered in 1975 to fight then State leader Indira Gandhi’s choice to proclaim Crisis. The veteran supporter was additionally the Leader of the Bar Relationship from 1991 to 2010.

In his long career, Fali Nariman argued several landmark cases, including the National Judicial Appointments Commission case, which was struck down by the Supreme Court.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the legal doyen’s death and said he had devoted his life to “make justice accessible to common citizens.”

Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud condoled the death of Nariman before beginning the day’s proceedings. He said, “We mourn the sad demise and passing away of Fali Nariman. He was a great giant of an intellectual.”

Nariman, born on January 10, 1929, in Rangoon, then part of British India, began his legal career in November 1950, when he enrolled as an advocate of the Bombay High Court. His prominence soared, and he was named a senior advocate in 1961.

Nariman was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 2007 after receiving the Padma Bhushan in January 1991.

Nariman, a former Rajya Sabha member, practised law for almost 70 years.

Nariman joined the Bombay High Court as a lawyer in 1950 and was promoted to senior advocate in 1961. In 1972, he relocated to New Delhi to practice in the Supreme Court of India.

In May 1972, Nariman was appointed as India’s additional solicitor general. However, he resigned on June 26, 1975, one day after the Emergency was declared. His son, Justice Rohinton F Nariman, was a former Supreme Court judge.

From 1991 until 2010, the seasoned lawyer served as President of the Bar Association of India.

Throughout his career, he has held a number of prestigious positions, including President of the International Council for Commercial Arbitration since 1994, Vice-Chairman of the Internal Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce since 1989, and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva from 1995 to 1997, among others.

What were some of Nariman’s key cases?

The eminent lawyer represented Union Carbide in the Bhopal Gas Tragedy case and also played a significant role in striking a $470 million deal between the victims and the organisation outside the court.

Nariman played significant roles in landmark cases such as the Golak Nath case, establishing judicial review over constitutional amendments.

He was also a part of the NJAC verdict and the SC AoR Association case, which influenced the establishment of the collegium system.

He also participated in cases like the TMA Pai case, addressing the extent of minority rights under Article 30.

He was the lawyer of the Gujarat Government in the Narmada rehabilitation case. However, he resigned after several Christians were attacked.

Lawyer Prashant Bhushan said to PTI in an interview, “The passing away of Mr Nariman is the end of an era of our legal history. He was regarded as the ‘Bhishma Pitamaha’ of our legal community. He had seen the whole unfolding of our Constitution and the judiciary from very close quarters and he had always been engaged with almost all the important battles in the court that have taken place.”

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