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Former Attorney General of India Soli Sorabjee dies due to COVID-19

By Priyanka Verma 
Updated Date
Former Attorney General of India Soli Sorabjee dies due to COVID-19

New Delhi: Former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee, one of India’s finest legal minds, died of Covid this morning. He was 91.

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The veteran jurist was born in 1930 in Bombay. The 91-year-old Constitutional law expert was recently infected with COVID-19, family sources said.

A senior lawyer and Padma Vibhushan recipient, Soli Sorabjee was being treated at a private hospital in Delhi.

Condoling his death, President Ram Nath Kovind said, “In the passing of Soli Sorabji, we lost an icon of India’s legal system. He was among a select few who deeply influenced the evolution of the constitutional law & justice system. Awarded with Padma Vibhushan, he was among the most eminent jurists. Condolences to his family & associates.”

“Soli Sorabjee was an outstanding lawyer and intellectual. Through law, he was at the forefront of helping the poor and downtrodden. He will be remembered for his noteworthy tenures India’s Attorney General. Saddened by his demise. Condolences to his family and admirers”, PM Modi tweeted.

Known for his exceptional legal acumen and association with human rights’ cases, Sorabjee commenced his legal practice in 1953 in the Bombay high court.

In 1971, he was designated as a senior counsel by the Supreme Court. He served the office of soliciter general of India from 1977 to 1980. Sorabjee became the attorney general of India first from 1989-90 and then from 1998-2004.

He was honoured with the Padma Vibhushan award, the second highest civilian award in India, in March 2002 for his defence of freedom of speech and the protection of human rights.

Sorabjee was associated with a catena of landmark judgments that helped jurisprudence in India grow to new heights.

Sorabjee joined jurist Nani Palkhivala and another veteran lawyer Fali S Nariman to fight the Keshavanand Bharti case in which the doctrine of the basic structure of the Constitution was evolved by the apex court in 1973 and fetters were imposed on Parliament’s power to alter the Constitution of India.

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He was the petitioner’s lawyer in the famous SR Bommai case, prompting the Supreme Court to deliver a historic verdict in 1994 that the power of the President to dismiss a state government is not absolute and is also amenable to judicial review on certain grounds.

Sorabjee also contributed in Prakash Singh case where the top court nudged the Centre to appoint the National Police Commission in 1977 and paved the way for significant police reforms.

In 1984 anti-Sikh riots cases, Sorabjee worked with Citizen’s Justice Committee and took the case pro bono for the victims. He also led the fight in Maneka Gandhi’s case in which the Supreme Court expanded the meaning of personal liberty to mean life with dignity and against any arbitrary action not only of the executive but also through any legislative act.

In 1977, Sorabjee was appointed as a special reporter for Nigeria by United Nation for studying the condition of the country. After this, he received an important place in the UN where he become member of the United Nation Sub Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and later, he became the chairman of the commission from 1998 to 2004.

Since 1998, he was a member of the United Nation Sub commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. Sorabjee also served from 2000 to 2006 as a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague.

Jazz, as Sorabjee used to say, was his ‘first love’. He stopped playing the clarinet because of breathing problems but he never stopped listening.

He was one of the prime architects of the annual Jazz Yatra and maintained that jazz left a deep influence in the way he practised law. It made him improvise as the situation demanded inside a court, he often said.

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