March 25, 2015

A "lion" of a Judge: brief profile of Justice Rohinton Nariman

The youngest senior advocate and Supreme Court judge, Justice Rohinton Nariman has always been a trail-blazer. On Tuesday, however, by striking down as unconstitutional the draconian Section 66A of the Information Technology Act 2000, he cements his place in history.

The 56-year-old SC judge, once described as “wise and humane” by former-advocate-general Darius Khambata, is among only five senior advocates directly elevated to the bench.

His very first judgment said death penalty reviews must be heard in open court by a three-judge-bench. The order confirms what Kambatta says fondly -- the ‘F’ in Rohinton F Nariman stands not just for his father Fali, but also for “fair.”

The judgment went against years of SC practice, which allowed death penalty reviews to be heard by circulation and two judges. But Nariman is no stranger to standing up to authority.

The young man who joined the Bar in 1979 was a “lion of a lawyer.” His strong opinions and general impatience with briefing counsels are as legendary as his fantastic memory and command over jurisprudence.

In 1993, then SC Chief Justice Venkatachalaiah designated as SC senior advocate a 37 –year-old Nariman against the minimum age of 45.  

Since then, the judge – who is also an ordained Zoroastrian priest from Bandra Agiary Bombay – has taken on many initiatives for young and needy lawyers. Apart from donating Rs. 1 Crore for setting up the SC lawyers welfare club, Nariman has also instituted annual scholarships for young lawyers.

BTW: This is just him talking about Beethoven
He is also a scholar of history and western classical music. His famous Nariman-memory (both he and father Fali are renowned for their recall power) can identify a 1000 pieces of Opera music from just their opening notes. He is also an avid daily walker.

Speaking about Tuesday’s milestone judgment, which was authored by Nariman, SC lawyer Gopal Sankaranarayanan told HT, “It’s a particularly erudite, wide-ranging judgment which reflects the author’s command over literature, religion apart from his obvious liberal credentials​

A shorter version of this article appeared in Hindustan Times March 25, 2015 Delhi edition as "Trail blazer judge lives up to expectations."

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