By: Pramod Thomas
LEGAL luminary and India’s former attorney general Soli Sorabjee passed away due to Covid-19 at a hospital in New Delhi on Friday (30). He was 91.
He is survived by wife, a daughter and two sons, reported the PTI.
A recipient of the Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award of the country, Sorabjee appeared in several historic cases like Kesavananda Bharti and S R Bommai.
He served as the attorney general for India from 1989-90 and then from 1998-2004 during the tenure of V P Singh and Atal Bihari Vajpayee respectively.
President Ram Nath Kovind, vice president Venkaiah Naidu and prime minister Narendra Modi were among a host of leaders who condoled the passing away of the eminent jurist.
The prime minister described him as an outstanding lawyer who was at the forefront of helping the poor and downtrodden through law. India’s chief justice N V Ramana also condoled the demise of Sorabjee.
“I am deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Shri Soli Jehangir Sorabjee, former attorney general of India. In his nearly 68 year long association with the judicial world, he made immeasurable contribution in enriching the global jurisprudence of Human Rights and Fundamental Right,” he said.
Considered one of the best Constitutional law experts, Sorabjee wrote several books on laws and justice, press censorship and the Emergency, and vehemently fought against human and fundamental rights violations.
One of his recent court battles pertaining to fundamental right violations was the Shreya Singhal case in which the supreme court in 2015 agreed to his submissions and struck down a provision in the Information Technology Act relating to restrictions on online freedom of speech and expression.
The top court held that section 66A was unconstitutional as being violative of freedom of speech guaranteed under the Constitution, the point put forth by Sorabjee,
Considered close to Vajpayee, Sorabjee had led India’s fight in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) when Pakistan sought compensation from India for downing of their naval patrol aircraft Atlantic in 1999 just after the Kargil war.
The ICJ at the Hague ruled in India’s favour after taking note of submissions of Sorabjee and dismissed Pakistan’s claim for compensation, saying it had no jurisdiction over the matter. He also appeared and worked for the Citizen’s Justice Committee which represented anti-Sikh riots victims.
Born in a Parsi family in 1930, Sorabjee enrolled at the bar in 1953 and was designated senior advocate by the Bombay High Court in 1971.
Sorabjee appeared in many important cases including the Kesavananda Bharati matter on basic structure doctrine and the S R Bommai matter relating to invocation of president’s rule in states among others.
He was appointed by the UN as a Special Rapporteur for Nigeria in 1997 to report on the human rights situation in that country and later became a member and the Chairman of the UN-Sub Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, from 1998 to 2004.
Sorabjee was also a member of the UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities since 1998.
He has also served as member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague from 2000 to 2006.
Overwhelmed by the terror strike in Mumbai in 2008, Sorabjee filed a public interest litigation in the top court seeking direction for training and equipping police force to tackle terrorists.