Be Inspired By The Hard Work Of Nani Palkhivala: Justice S. J. Vazifdar

Nani Palkhivala continues to inspire generations of lawyers & CAs, even though several years have passed since he left for his heavenly abode. Though a genius, his success was largely due to sheer hard work and the ability to do ordinary things the proper way. Justice Shiavax Jal Vazifdar urges all professionals to live up to the high standards set by Palkhivala and aspire to reach the heights reached by him

The heights by great men, reached and kept, were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept were toiling upward in the night:
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Speaking at the 10th Nani Palkhivala Memorial National Tax Moot Court Competition, 2013, Justice Shiavax Jal Vazifdar of the Bombay High Court reminded the young audience about the magic of Nani Palkhivala and asked them to live by his high standards and work ethics.

Justice S. J. Vazifdar is himself a devoted follower of the principles of Nani Palkhivala. One can see this in the way the learned Judge conducts the Court. While he is a very popular Judge with a pleasant temperament, he expects thorough preparation from Counsel on both sides. Also his judgements are extremely well researched and written in a simple and easy-to-understand style.

The remarkable aspect is that when Justice Vazifdar was elevated to the Bench, he had a flourishing practice in constitutional, company and arbitration matters but not much exposure to income-tax matters. However, within a short period of joining the Bench, Justice Vazifdar mastered the complicated subject of income-tax and went on to deliver several landmark judgements such as CIT vs. Pruthvi Brokers & Shareholders 349 ITR 336, Sahara Hospitality Ltd vs. CIT 352 ITR 38, CIT vs. CA Computer Associates 351 ITR 69 etc.

Justice Vazifdar has also mastered transfer pricing law and one can see this in his latest judgement in Vodafone India Service vs. UOI 37 250 where the redoubtable Harish Salve appeared for the assessee and Darius J. Khambatta, the ld. Additional Solicitor General of India, appeared for the Revenue. The learned Judge has laid down several landmark and far-reaching principles of transfer pricing law in the judgement.

In his speech, Justice Vazifdar adverted to Nani Palkhivala’s secrets of success. While Nani Palkhivala was undoubtedly gifted and was a genius, much of his success came from sheer hard work and adopting the proper technique while doing ordinary things.

For instance, Nani Palkhivala was particular about time management. In his mind, he would allot the time required for the various tasks that he had to accomplish and ensure that they were done within that time. This strict adherence to time management made it necessary for Palkhivala to focus and concentrate on the job in hand and his ability to focus and concentrate made it possible for him to adhere to his self-imposed time restrictions.

Nani Palkhivala’s other trait was that he knew that a point had to be put in a simple manner so that the Judge is able to immediately grasp it. This entailed a lot of thorough preparation because there is nothing more difficult than making a complicated issue sound simple. Nani Palkhivala would formulate his propositions well in advance of the hearing and compartmentalize the facts. So, when he was arguing the matter, it was very clear to the Judges what propositions of law Palkhivala was advancing, what were the facts and what were the case laws on the subject.

Also, Palkhivala would, at least in important matters, prepare written submissions or propositions that would act as an aide-de-memoir for the Judges.

It may be recollected that apart from Justice Vazifdar, Nani Palkhivala has several other staunch followers, such as Harish Salve. Harish Salve paid his tribute to Nani Palkhivala in the following inspiring words: “From him I learnt that genius is a lot of hard work. It entails having the capacity to do what people find boring, that is where you hone your attention to detail. Palkhivala taught me to make excellence an end unto itself. He used to say that the measure of how well you’ve argued in court comes not from the decision of the court, but from how you personally feel you’ve performed. He opened up a whole new dimension of the world before me”.

The noteworthy aspect is that Justice Vazifdar was very impressed with the quality of representation that he saw from the young students in the moot court, especially in the transfer pricing case study. He remarked, only half in jest, that if he had heard the arguments of the students before, he would have delivered a better judgement in the Vodafone matter!

Based on a talk by Hon’ble Justice S.J. Vazifdar at the Valedictory Function of the 10th Nani Palkhivala Memorial National Tax Moot Court Competition, 2013 on 05.10.2013
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10 comments on “Be Inspired By The Hard Work Of Nani Palkhivala: Justice S. J. Vazifdar
  1. Avineesh Matta says:

    I still have to hear someone, like Mr. Nani Palkhiwala on various issues. His Post Budget speeches were thoughtful, invigorating and meaningful.

  2. Bhaskar Viswanadham says:

    An sheer genius. Always looked upto his budget speeches. Drafting the finer points in a very brief and simple manner in which even the common man can understand, talks about his thorough preparation and command on the subject that he is into. A true legend.

  3. Pranith Golecha says:

    As rightly said – make the subject easy, put across the point in a simple and understandable way. Thats the key, thats the mantra for success. Once the facts and arguments are presented in a crystal clear way so that others are able to easily comprehend, the battlle is half won. Though its difficult to do it, but the fact is that even if 20% of the time we spent on research of case laws, arguments etc is spent on putting together the facts clearly, arranging the sequence of arguments, prepraing gist of arguments etc… 80% of the work is done……

  4. CADhirendra Mehta says:

    I recall what he said when the deduction u/s 80Uof Rs. 20,000/- was introduced for handicapped person. In this regard, in his inimtable style,he went on to enumerate all the conditions which are required to comply to get this deduction and then he posed a question to the mammoth audience that anyone who can comply with all these conditions,inspite of the required certificate, by what imagination he can be considered as handicapped!
    Only a genius like him can explain the situation so well.
    We salute you Sir.

  5. CA. Amogh Gore says:

    I also learned from Late Nani Palkhiwala to devote time to do more reading and research on the subject instead of presenting long list of case laws while arguing with the Income Tax Authorities. As a student in those years in 1980s, I never missed any opportunity to learn from him- be it his budget speech or the lectures in seminars for professionals.

    I recall those days – more than one lakh corporate people from Nariman Point / South Bombay area every year used to attend his budget speech at Braebourne stadium and CCI lawns.

  6. Nem Singh says:

    Peoples are gone the things they left between us are only the words or thoughts for that we remember them for their work, principle, destiny and dignity of knowledge. No doubt the people who is not between us but we realise that he is with us and is guiding us. We learn from discussion and research that we got from the ruling of our masters. Thanks

  7. Adv. I.S.Verma says:

    Thought for Bombay Bar(s):

    It is true that there can’t be another ‘Palkhiwala’, but, why Bombay Bar(s) have not been able to produce, at least, another “Palkhiwala’ like human being-cum-advocate?

  8. ANIL JAIN says:

    It is truly encouraging & inspiring to read after such a long time about Mr. Palkhiwala. Really priviledged to hear him in person.

  9. CA Ruban Kumar says:

    Really inspiring. Salute to MR. Nani Palkhewala.

  10. Rajiv Tyagi says:

    I am glad that I saw and heard the legend.

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