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PUCL Bulletin, 2007

H M Seervai

Hormasji ‘Homi’ Maneckji Seervai

December 5, 2006 marked the birth centenary of late H M Seervai. The Bombay PUCL was constituted on April 17, 1981. Justice N P Nathwani presided over the meeting in which Justice J C Shah was elected the President and H M Seervai, Jyoti Shah, Aloo Dastur, and Asghar Ali Engineer were elected Vice-Presidents, amongst other office bearers. Later on H M Seervai assumed the Presidentship of Bombay PUCL and made it a distinguished crusader of civil liberties and human rights.

Under his stewardship the Bombay PUCL raised the level of protests and defence of the rights of the people to new heights. H M Seervai and M A Rane made a team that did path breaking work in the newly founded human rights movement of the country. The insights of a constitutional lawyer of the highest degree of integrity and fearlessness combined with a philosophical view of law made Seervai a unique lawyer. He had the courage to caution a Chief Justice like Gajendragadkar not to sit on a Bench in which he could have had a bias, says eminent legal columnist Harish Khare. (The Hindu, December 5, 2006, Remembering Homi Seervai).

It is on record that the government of India chose Seervai as the leading counsel in precedence over the Attorney General to defend the Power of Parliament to amend the Constitution in Keshavanand before a 13 judge bench of the Supreme Court. He argued the case with vehemence for more that three weeks maintaining that the Parliament had the power to amend the Constitution without any limitations. But when he witnessed the misuse of that power during the Emergency in 1975, he had no hesitation to accept that there had to be limitations on Parliament’s power to interfere with the Constitution. It needed intellectual courage to recognise such game of political manipulations.

Twice he rejected the judgeship of the Supreme Court because he did not want to leave Bombay. The author of the well known treatise, Constitutional Law of India, was declared by the International Bar Association A Living Legend of Law. – Y P Chhibbar, General Secretary

People's Union for Civil Liberties, 81 Sahayoga Apartmrnts, Mayur Vihar I, Delhi 110091, India. Phone (91) 11 2275 0014