Master of his craft: Jurist Soli Sorabjee

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This article is written by Shilpa, a student of Banasthali Vidyapeeth.

An Indian jurist, former Attorney General, Padma Vibhushan recipient,  a renowned human rights lawyer Soli Jehangir Sorabjee was born on 9 March 1930 to a Parsi family in Bombay.  He did his schooling from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai and graduated from Government Law College, Mumbai. At Government Law College, Mumbai Sorabjee was awarded with the Kinloch Forbes Gold Medal in Roman law and jurispudence in 1952.  After that he started his legal practice in 1953 in Bombay High Court. In 1971 he was designated as senior counsel. He was close friend to Nani Palkhivala. He served office of Soliciter General of India from 1977 to 1980. Also served the office of Attorney General of India for two term first from 1989 to 1990 and second from 1998 to 2004.

Soli Sorabjee is a renowned human rights lawyer.  In 1977 he was appointed as special reporter for Nigeria by United Nation where he was asked to submit a report on the condition of the country.  And after this he recieved an important place in United Nation where he become member of the United Nation Sub Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and later he become the chairman of the commission from 1998 to 2004.      Since 1998 he is member of the United Nation Sub commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities.  Also served from 2000 to 2006 as a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague. He is also President of the United Lawyers Association.  Justice K.S. Hegde Foundation Award was also credited in his achivement in April 2006. Sorabjee also wrote famous books and publications. Books written by him are:

  • The laws of Press Censorship in India (1976)
  • The Emergency, Censorship and Press in India (1975-77)
  • Law and Justice (2004)

He contributed very much in defending freedom of press in many landmark cases in the Supreme Court of India and played an important role in countermand censorship orders and bans on publications.

In 1984 anti sikh riots Sorabjee worked with Citizen’s justice committee who took the case pro bono.  In 2006 he was appointed as an Honory Member (AM)in the General Division of the order of Australia because of his superlative contribution for the development of link between the two country India and Australia in the legal field.  Like other famous personalities he was also alleged in MeToo campign by a woman lawyer who filed Public Interest Litigation in Supreme Court against him and he rejected the allegation with the statement made that the woman who field the Public Interest     Litigation has a habit of making allegation against people.

Sorabjee criticised the decision of the central government to scrap Article 370 he called it a mere political decision he doesn’t feel anything revolutionary about it. Soli Sorabjee contributed in many leading cases of India in Prakash Singh and others vs Union of India and others in this case Government of India appointed National Police Commission in 1977 after the enactment of Indian Police Act,1861.  The commission was formed to examine the role and performance of police as a law enforcing agency and as an institution to protect the rights of the citizens.  Beside National Police Commission government of India also appointed various higher powered committee and commisssion for examination of police reform. Addition to this Government of India in term of office of memorandum constituted a committee comprising Soli Sorabjee and five others for drafting a new Police Act in 2005, and by the 2006 Sorabjee committee prepared an outline draft for a new Police Act.

In the case of Sunil Batra vs Delhi Administration Soli Sorabjee played an important, affirmative and passionate role in this.

Soli Sorabjee was the counsel on the behalf of petitioner in S. R Bommai vs Union of India in this case petitioner filed writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution questioning the Constitutional validity of the Presidential Proclamation dated 21 April’ 1989.  It was contended by Soli Sorabjee “the power exercisable under Article 356(1) of the Constitution is neither unlimited nor unfettered; that for the exercise of that power the existence of jurisdictional pre-requisite that the Government or the administration of the state, could not be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, is essential and that for the exercise of that power subjective satisfaction of an objective reality is a sine qua non.  In order to show as to when this power was intented to be exercised.” 

He was involved in K.S Puttaswamy and others vs Union of India and others in which bench was constituetd for deciding the application filed by Union of India for seeking clarification in the order of the court dated 11 August’2015.

When we talk about the thinking of Soli Sorabjee regarding what law is today for him, he stated that “Law is not a money-making racket”, he further said that “Law is a profession ,not a trading business.  But today the trend is to treat law as a commercial activity. This is not a business. This is not about demand and supply.” 

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