Palkhivala, Saviour of Our Constitution and Freedoms
-- By M.A. Rane, 12th December 2002
The PUCL has lost one of its sources of strength in the death of Nani
Nani Palkhivala belonged to the rare class of persons whose talents and
activities are multifaceted. A brilliant student, equally brilliant, courteous,
and persuasive Advocate, a constitutional and tax expert, an eminent jurist,
an author, a prolific writer, a powerful speaker who could hold the audience
spellbound without referring to a scrap of paper even on a dry subject
like the Budget due to his phenomenal memory, an Ambassador, a person
concerned with democracy, human rights and liberties, and well being of
the people - the list in inexhaustible - and above all an humble gentleman.
Nani's most valuable service to the people of India is his success in
the Keshavanand Bhaarti case. Ingenuous, original, and convincing arguments
in the case that the Parliament in exercise of its powers to amend to
the Constitution, cannot mutilate it by destroying its basic features
such as Fundamental Rights, democratic polity, etc. Otherwise, the Parliament
can repeal the entire Constitution by passing an enactment and rest all
powers in one individual or a junta. The Keshavanand Bhaarti stood between
totalitarianism on the one hand and democracy, a free society, basic human
freedoms and rights on the other.
During the Emergency the then Chief Justice of India A. N. Ray convened
a larger Bench for reconsidering Keshavanand Bhaarti. The opening passionate
and convincing speech of Palkhivala opposing the reconsideration compelled
the CJI to dissolve the Bench. Justice H. R. Khanna, after he retired
paid rich tributes to Palkhivala for his powerful and convincing arguments.
Nani joined J.P., V.M. Tarkunde, Chief Justice Chagla, S. M. Joshi, and
several others in inaugurating a non-party organisation called Citizens
for Democracy in April 1974, which was one of the people's organizations
that resisted the Emergency rule. Later he joined in the formation of
the PUCLDR. He formed a trust called JP Institute of Human Freedoms from
out of the royalty of the last edition of his book on Income Tax and generously
helped Human Rights organizations.
It will be difficult for the PUCL to fill the void left by him.