Soli Sorabjee inspired me to continue in profession: CJI Ramana
Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana on Sunday said that eminent jurist Soli Sorabjee was among the many people who inspired him to continue in the legal profession and in his demise the country had lost one of the greatest legal minds and a champion of human rights. Sorabjee, a recipient of Padma Vibhushan who twice served as Attorney General, passed away due to Covid-19 on April 30.
Speaking at a virtual event organized in memory of Sorabjee, Justice Ramana recalled meeting him in 1988 to discuss a case involving the then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. Sorabjee was thorough with facts and after a five-minute briefing, the two questions he asked were the ones posed by the bench the next day.
“I thought I had seen a prophet in action….I must admit that he was one of those who inspired me to continue in this profession,” Justice Ramana said, describing Sorabjee as one of the greatest legal minds and champion of human rights who possessed great qualities.
Justice UU Lalit of the Supreme Court described Sorabjee as a “great package” who had love for life, particularly his passion for jazz, poetry and literature. “He was the best guardian of the fortress of free speech and expression who excelled in all branches of law,” Justice Lalit said. The fact that a viral infection led to Sorabjee’s end was ironical, said Justice DY Chandrachud, who also spoke at the memorial event hosted by Sorabjee family – wife Zena, daughter Zia and sons Jehangir and Hormazd.
Justice Chandrachud said, “If you are in his chamber and you had a (common) cold, you ran the risk of being thrown out and it is so ironical that it was a virus that got him in the end.” In 1998, Sorabjee asked the young Chandrachud whether he was willing to become Additional Solicitor General, which he readily accepted. The same year when the opportunity came to be elevated as a High Court judge, upon Sorabjee’ advice, Justice Chandrachud decided to accept the offer.
Other eminent lawyers like Harish Salve, Gopal Subramaniam and S Ganesh who once served as juniors to Sorabjee also spoke on the occasion. Nobody missed out sharing anecdotes about Sorabjee’s court craft, wit, humour and ability to mimic judges. Salve later served as Solicitor General of India when Sorabjee was Attorney General. Common love for jazz transformed Salve from a junior to a friend, though Salve found it extremely difficult to stop addressing him as ‘sir’.
Sorabjee was a role model for young lawyers as he never once spoke rudely or made an offensive remark against a judge, a fact endorsed by his eminent juniors. Summing up the myriad facets of his personality, senior advocate Arvind Datar said, “In four years, Supreme Court will complete 75 years. If ever there is a Hall of Fame for Lawyers, Sorabjee’s name will be right up at the top.”