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A convivial soul, Soli lived a full life & enjoyed every moment of it | India News

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A convivial soul, Soli lived a full life & enjoyed every moment of it | India News 2

Soli Sorabjee

Soli and I graduated from the same law college, though in different years, the Government Law College, Bombay, as it was then known. Each of us was fortunate to find a berth in the same lawyers’ chambers — that of the greatest, and also the most humble, of the giants of the Bombay bar: Sir Jamshedji Kanga. He was so well-reputed and revered that he was the only advocate on whose death, at the ripe old age of 94, the entire high court remained closed as a mark of respect.
I was two years senior to Soli in the profession but, as we always joked, he was two years my ‘senior’ in matrimony — he married Zena before I married Bapsi. Each of us had long since celebrated not only six glorious decades at the bar, both in Mumbai and in Delhi, but also celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary as well.
In May 1972, I was appointed the third law officer of the Union of India, but a couple of years later, resigned as additional solicitor general of India, a day after the Emergency of June 26, 1975. However, Soli not only had a stint as solicitor general of India but then moved on to become attorney general.
‘Old dodderers never hang up boots’
Soli was attorney general in 1989 for a year, and then in 1998 for a continuous period of five years — the only advocate from the chambers of Sir Jamshedji to have been appointed to the highest constitutional office a lawyer could aspire to. He had an early start in the profession, topped by a very early triumph as well. In 1967, he argued and won the case challenging the vires of the old Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920, before a constitution bench of the Supreme Court presided over by one of India’s great judges, K Subba Rao (then Chief Justice of India). After this feather in his cap, Soli never looked back.
As a person, he had his own preferences, along with a few of his own idiosyncrasies. As I have had mine. But it was in the memory of old times, and they were happy times, that we often regaled one another, a prospect that will now be sorely missed. In recent years, I sometimes hear a constant refrain from some younger members of the bar: “When will these old fellows retire”? Well, truthfully, the answer is never.
In fact, some years ago, senior advocate Krishnamani (an old friend who alas is no more), when elected president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, penned a letter of complaint to the then CJI stating that “old members of the bar” (and he named them: ‘like Jethmalani, Nariman and Sorabjee”) required to be protected in the corridors of the Supreme Court against the hordes of young advocates racing from court to court.
And he recommended to I regaled ourselves with past recollections and gossip not only in the capacious lounge in the Supreme Court (before March 2020) but thereafter, in the dining room of India International Centre. The unwritten rule in both places being that the laws of defamation have no application to whatever is said.
Soli lived a full life, and enjoyed every moment of it, often accompanied with his favourite brand of music. He was a most lively and convivial soul, full of fun and laughter. But enough of reminiscing, as George Bernard Shaw used to say, “reminiscences make one feel so deliciously aged and sad”.
For comrades-in-arms, for each of us ninety-plus older than the hills (as the saying goes), death comes as no surprise. However, it is the parting of ways that is so hard to endure, not just for the family but for close associates as well.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will fondly remember him. the CJI that “something should be done about this”. Fortunately, the then CJI did not respond to Krishnamani by writing back (as he should have): “Go and ask the old dodderers to sit at home”. The trouble with “old dodderers” is that they go on and on, never hanging up their boots.
Despite all our grunting and grumbling about the increasing number of members that join the bar each year, jostling us oldies with their hustling-and-bustling in the corridors of the court, each of us often looked forward (before the pandemic) to the still-very-occasional argument in court.
More frequently, Soli and I regaled ourselves with past recollections and gossip not only in the capacious lounge in the Supreme Court (before March 2020) but thereafter, in the dining room of India International Centre. The unwritten rule in both places being that the laws of defamation have no application to whatever is said.
Soli lived a full life, and enjoyed every moment of it, often accompanied with his favourite brand of music. He was a most lively and convivial soul, full of fun and laughter. But enough of reminiscing, as George Bernard Shaw used to say, “reminiscences make one feel so deliciously aged and sad”.
For comrades-in-arms, for each of us ninety-plus older than the hills (as the saying goes), death comes as no surprise. However, it is the parting of ways that is so hard to endure, not just for the family but for close associates as well. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will fondly remember him.

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