Earlier this month, retired Supreme Court Judge, Rohinton Fali Nariman, took to Youtube, to share a massive collection of recorded speeches and discussions for the general public’s viewing. Justice Nariman’s most recent uploads on the channel, which was launched on April 4th, cover a variety of topics — ranging from his personal faith in Zoroastrianism, to Arbitration Law, and a retrospective on Nagpur’s legacy of great judicial figures.
With over 40 years of experience as a lawman, Justice Nariman has been at the forefront of several important case, before he retired on August 12th, 2021. During this time, developed a reputation for being a forward-thinking pioneer of India’s judicial system, a shrewd litigator, and even a well-versed theologian.
Justice Nariman’s Career
Justice Nariman is the son of the esteemed Indian jurist, Fali Sam Nariman. As one of the greatest constitutional lawyers in Indian history, Rohinton Nariman watched his father handle several landmark cases through 20th century India, and earn the Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan, and the Gruber Prize for Justice during his own career as an advocate.
This began with an early education in Mumbai at the Cathedral and John Connon School, followed by an undergraduate B.Com from Sri Ram College of Commerce. This was followed by a silver-medalist L.L.B. graduation from the University of Delhi, followed by a Masters from Harvard, where he spent a year working on a thesis comparing affirmative action between the US and India.
Joining the bar in 1979, Nariman distinguished himself before India’s courts — developing a keen understanding of corporate litigation, comparative constitutional law, and civil law. This clearly caught the attention of India’s then-25th Chief Justice M. N. Venkatachaliah, who amended the rules to let Nariman become a Supreme Court Senior Advocate at the age of 37 — 8 years younger than the earlier barrier of 45 years. Later on, Nariman would carry on this spirit of rewarding young, talented lawyers by setting up the Supreme Court Welfare Trust.
After attaining the position of Solicitor General of India in the early 2010s, Nariman resigned from the post in 18 months, only to receive the honor of becoming a Supreme Court Judge in 2014. He remains the 5th-ever person to become an SC judge directly from the bar.
Nariman’s Landmark Supreme Court Cases
Across his career, Justice Nariman presided over a large variety of cases. Here are some of the most famous rulings that he was part of, according to the Supreme Court Observer archive:
Fundamental Right to Privacy – Justice K.S. Puttaswamy v Union of India
“Nariman J was on the nine-judge Supreme Court bench which unanimously declared privacy as a fundamental right. The bench held that privacy is integral to the right to life with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution.”
Triple Talaq – Shayara Bano v Union of India
“Nariman J, along with Justices Kurian Joseph and UU Lalit, struck down the practice through the majority judgment. Nariman J affirmed that manifest arbitrariness can be grounds for striking down a law.”
Section 66A, I.T. Act – Shreya Singhal v Union of India
“Nariman J declared Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 unconstitutional for being ‘open-ended, undefined and vague. Section 66A empowered the police to arrest anyone accused of posting electronic messages that cause annoyance or inconvenience.”
Convict Death Penalty Review – Mohd. Arif v The Registrar, Supreme Court Of India
“Nariman J held that a review of a convict’s death penalty should be heard in open court by a bench of at least three judges. Previously, all review petitions were decided in chambers without the presence of advocates.”
Sabarimala Temple Entry – Indian Young Lawyers’ Association v State of Kerala
“In a 4:1 majority, Nariman J and the court ruled that Sabarimala’s exclusion of women violated the fundamental rights of women between the ages of 10-50 years and Rule 3(b) of the Public Worship Rules was unconstitutional.”
Currently, Justice Nariman’s Youtube channel has over 6,000 subscribers, and 48 uploads.
(Featured Image Credits: Bar and Bench)