Fali Nariman’s magic is that he is an original thinker. Never willing to give up, always optimistic. Always thinking of how a point can make all the difference to the matter. Even at the final stage in the Supreme Court, does not stop thinking of how a new approach or a new angle can make the difference. He can turn a point around on its head and discover an angle missed by others. That quality is what makes the difference
Nariman started his practice in 1953 as the first junior of Kharshedji Bhabha. He left Bombay in May 1972 to practise at the Supreme Court.
Nariman credits his success to Bhabha. “If I am a good lawyer, it is because I was so moulded, devilling with KH Bhabha.” He said in a memorial address at the Bombay Bar Association. He also credits Bhabha for his sense of humour. “It was not law alone that I leant from Kharshedji but conviviality as well”.
Nariman was Additional Solicitor General of India from May 1972 to 25 June 1975, resigning from that post upon the Declaration of Emergency on 26 June 1975. Fali Nariman was the recipient of the Padma Vibhushan in 2007 and the Padma Bhushan in 1991 for his contribution to jurisprudence and public affairs.
Nariman was a President-appointee member of the Rajya Sabha between 1999 and 2005. He has held several other important positions, details of which can be had here.
The respect that Nariman commands comes from his deep understanding of the law and his fearlessness in expressing it. One example of this is the talk he gave on ‘Substantive and Procedural Reforms in the Supreme Court’. He touched a variety of issues and was openly critical of both the Bench and the Bar. He advised the Bar to “speak less and only after intense preparation”. He advised the judges to “write less after carefully pondering over what is drafted/or dictated — conscious of the mandate of the Constitution that whatever a Judge of the Supreme Court says is regarded by one and all as the law of the land”.
He was also critical of the present selection of High Court and Supreme Court Judges exclusively by a Collegiate of five of the seniormost Judges of the Supreme Court. He called the collegiate a “coterie” and a “closed-club selection”.
He also termed recent contenpt proceedings taken by the Court as “ill-advised”. He said “Judges whether of this Court or of High Courts are not fragile flowers that wilt either in the heat of argument or in the heat of criticism, howsoever trenchant and caustic. The contempt power should not be used to discipline either the lawyer, or the press or the public.”
Nariman’s magic – as is that of the other legends – is that he is an original thinker. Never willing to give up, always optimistic. Always thinking of how a point can make all the difference to the matter. Even at the final stage in the Supreme Court, does not stop thinking of how a new approach or a new angle can make the difference. He can turn a point around on its head and discover an angle missed by others. That quality is what makes the difference.
Apart from that, the old – fashioned hard work. He works on a case thoroughly. Knows all the facts, studies all the case laws and knows how to present the case in the simplest manner. Nariman would probably testify to the correctness of the old saying: Success is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.