PUCL Bulletin, May 2001

Fali Sam Nariman Felicitated

Fali Sam Nariman was born on January 10, 1929 at Rangoon. He was enrolled as advocate in High Court of Bombay in November 1950. He has been a senior advocate in the Supreme Court of India since 1971. He was felicitated recently on the completion of 50 years as a lawyer. He is one of the founding members of the PUCL. He was Additional Solicitor General of India when Emergency was declared. Following the dictates of his conscience he resigned from the post on June 26 1975 the day after Emergency was declared. He was the founder chairman of the LAWASIA standing committee on the human rights in 1979 and President of LAWASIA from 1985-'87. He has been honoured by a number of National and International Awards and positions. When he was a student of the Government Law College, Bombay he was taught by Y. V Chandrachud and Nani Palkhiwala is reported to have remarked once, "these voices (Fali Nariman, Soli Sorabji, Anil Diwan, and Ashok Desai) reached the top of the profession not because we taught them but, in the process of teaching them we learnt more than we taught." According to Ashok Desai, "we look upto him for his leadership because a fearless profession is as important as an independent Judiciary… I have found that he holds strong views but fully respects opposing views held by other colleagues.

His sense of humour is illustrative of his humility, as is clear from the following piece once related by him: there is an old teacher (I like to think he is a law teacher though I am not sure he is) who owns an old 1938 Morris car in New Delhi-as he drives along at 20 miles an hour one can read the sticker at the back of his car which says, 'this car is driven by a teacher. Please overtake me as all my students have.'

We give below another short piece written by him.
"Article 141 of the Constitution says that the law declared by the Supreme Court is binding on all courts and authorities in the territory of India. Unwillingly Article 141 has now become the thief of Judicial Time. The Laws' proverbial delays are not because there are too many laws, but because there are just too many reported judgments and orders concerning them. Cashing in on Art 141 every single case in the Supreme Court ) and even in the High Courts-is dutifully printed and reported by a variety of competing reporting agencies who want their law reports to sell as widely as possible. The "judgement - factory" has become over - commercialized, and quite a large number of the 30 million cases now pending in various Courts in India can be attributed-atleast in part-to this peculiar Indian malady: "case-law diarrhoea".

We have all forgotten the very wise and salutary rule enunciated more than a 100 years ago that the only use of authorities or decided cases is the establishment of some principles, which can guide the judge in deciding the case at hand. Any practicing lawyer of experience will tell you that no too cases are ever alike. We should perhaps go back to the system of reported and unreported judgments: only for the former to be declared as law, binding on all Courts in the land, the latter as applicable to the facts and circumstances of the given cases.

The originality of his thinking is reflected in the fact that even at the final appellate stage in the Supreme Court he can come up with a completely new approach to the case. He turns a point around and discovers an angle missed by others. He can place it in a manner, which catches his opponents on the wrong foot. It is difficult to say whether Fali is a better lawyer or advocate. I would recommend that one does not try to answer this question.

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