New Delhi: “We are losing one of the lions of the India judiciary,” Chief Justice N V Ramana said on Thursday while paying glowing tributes to Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman on his superannuation after over seven years at the Supreme Court bench.
Justice Nariman, who became the apex court judge on July 7, 2014, disposed of over 13,500 cases and delivered historic verdicts including declaration of privacy as fundamental right, setting aside of IT Act provision empowering arrests, decriminalising consensual gay sex and permitting women of all ages to enter Kerala’s Sabarimala temple.
The CJI, who sat with Justice Nariman and Justice Surya Kant for the ceremonial hearing at noon, was effusive in his praise and broke the convention by permitted all the desirous lawyers, besides Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and SCBA President Vikas Singh, to say few words in the honour of his retiring colleague.
His judgments like the one in the Shreya Singhal case (by which section 66A of the IT Act empowering police to arrest for social media posts was set aside) has left a permanent mark on legal jurisprudence. Personally I am a little overwhelmed at expressing my thoughts. On his retirement, I feel we are losing one of the lions of the Indian Judiciary, he said.
“We have seen just now the overwhelming response from the cross-section of the bar. I do not want to detain you for long, as I reserve my comments for the Supreme Court Bar Association function in the evening, Justice Ramana said.
The CJI referred to the excellent academic background of Justice Nariman and said he was made a senior advocate at the age of 37 years in 1993 by the then Chief Justice M N Venkatachaliah by amending the rule which fixes 45 years as minimum age for granting such a designation to a lawyer.
The CJI said that Justice Nariman had an extremely successful practice for over 35 years as a lawyer and was only the fifth lawyer to be directly elevated to the bench of the apex court.
At the outset, in the absence of Attorney General K K Venugopal, the Solicitor General delivered his farewell speech in the virtual function and recalled the fact that Justice Nariman was the first lawyer briefed by him in the apex court.
Today is a very special day. Not only for us, but for me as well, as Justice Nariman was the first-ever counsel I briefed in the Supreme Court, Mehta said, adding that the retiring judge has exceptional brilliance and integrity on varied subjects such as religions and constitutions”.
I wish your Lordship a happy, healthy and fulfilling life ahead and in the third innings of his life, the law officer said.
Thank you Solicitor, Justice Nariman replied.
Senior advocate and Supreme Court Bar Association President Vikas Singh also wished him a happy post-retirement life and said, To be here as a President of the Bar when Justice Nariman is there is a privilege. We should be grateful to Justice Lodha (former CJI who had recommended Justice Nariman for judgeship) who recommended the name of Justice Nariman.
The 7-year tenure for a person like Justice Nariman is not enough, he said, adding that his tenure has brought glory to the institution.
Former SCBA President and senior lawyer Dushyant Dave also spoke at the occasion and thanked the CJI for granting him the opportunity to speak for bidding farewell to one of the most popular judges of the Supreme Court .
Justice Nariman has served the country and the Constitution brilliantly, he said.
He was an absolute symbol of a very very fair and compassionate judge who was kind to all lawyers and very encouraging to the young members, Dave said.
The CJI then specifically asked the lawyers, who were logged into the video-conferencing facilities, to speak if they wished so.
Lawyers like Ranjit Kumar, P S Narasimha, R Basant, Siddharth Dave, K V Vishwanathan, Aishwarya Bhati, Ardhendumauli Prasad, Shivaji Jadhav and Joseph Aristotle also spoke at the occasion.
Justice Nariman, born on August 13, 1956, became a senior lawyer in 1993 and Solicitor General of India on July 27, 2011 before being elevated as the judge of the apex court on July 7, 2014.