Sorabjee was a distinguished authority on law, an erudite and apolitical scholar with encyclopedic knowledge, a prolific writer, jazz lover, ardent protector of freedom of speech, the protagonist in the fight for personal liberty and a human rights watchdog. (HT File)
Sorabjee was a distinguished authority on law, an erudite and apolitical scholar with encyclopedic knowledge, a prolific writer, jazz lover, ardent protector of freedom of speech, the protagonist in the fight for personal liberty and a human rights watchdog. (HT File)

Soli Sorabjee: The legal luminary

“Dost, when are you coming to Delhi?” Soli J Sorabjee had asked the last time we spoke
By Anil Malhotra
UPDATED ON MAY 02, 2021 01:27 AM IST

“Dost, when are you coming to Delhi?” Soli J Sorabjee had asked the last time we spoke. Now, I will never get another opportunity to meet the legal luminary who passed away on April 30.

It was a painful parting as the former attorney general of India had been a father figure for two decades. Sorabjee was a distinguished authority on law, an erudite and apolitical scholar with encyclopedic knowledge, a prolific writer, jazz lover, ardent protector of freedom of speech, the protagonist in the fight for personal liberty and a human rights watchdog. He had a keen interest in poetry, literature and architecture as well.

Brimming with instant wit and humour, Sorabjee lived life to the fullest. He was a gifted mimic and loved receiving gifts. Age for him was just a number and nothing dampened his exuberant spirit. He was always game for a chat, case discussion, legal analysis, joke, or serious debate. Sorabjee never slowed down.

Never deterred dissent

As a lawyer, I share treasured memories with him from international conferences across the globe, court appearances, events at the India International Centre, book releases, discussions, seminars, fiery debates and creative writing. No subject belied him. Be it a street in Perth, a conference hall in London, a hotel lobby in Hong Kong, or in a bookshop on the Gold Coast, lively discussions ensued in the middle of nowhere. He respected all views and opinions and never deterred dissent.

We published nine books with his blessing, the last of which was released on August 29 virtually. He was always encouraging and happily provided a foreword, preface, or speech during the book release. He never missed an event, and his wheelchair was no deterrent. Sorabjee’s thoughts, insights and views have always ignited my academic writings and professional goals.

Young at heart

His March 9 birthday invite ‘91 and Still Batting’ had drawn a distinguished galaxy of personalities to celebrate the jurists evergreen innings. Brimming with energy, his mind was as crisp as ever. Jazz, not law, was his first love. He has been the solicitor general and the attorney general twice. Platinum innings in the legal profession is but one facet of his omnibus personality.

His zest to promote budding lawyers and espouse emerging young entrants ensured that he was held in elevated esteem by the fraternity. He was fair to opponents, respectful to judges, and polite and gentle in courts. He never had qualms or regrets and will remain a paragon in the field.

A fiercely independent person, Soli lived life as per his rules. A lover of gastronomic delights — Primula cheese, Thorntons chocolates, Old Parr Whisky, dhansak and Scottish Shortbread were some of his favourites. His family was his biggest anchor.

My children Ankit and Aastha who had visited his Mumbai family home, described it as a sprawling colonial bungalow. Sorabjee lives in us to inspire us. Adieu.

(The author is a Chandigarh-based lawyer)

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