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Sohrab E. Dastur

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On the occasion of Mr. Dastur’s “Golden Jubilee” in the profession, we pulled out an old article by Mr. Dastur which continues to be as inspiring as ever. Mr. Dastur talks of his humble beginnings and how he succeeded in the profession through dint of hard work & perseverance after being inspired by other stalwarts. There is an invaluable message in the article for all professionals

On account of the delay in penning this piece pursuant to the persistent request of Kahn Narang, I find that it is today almost 34 years to the day when I was enrolled at the bar (7th August to be precise).

When I joined the Chambers of R.J. Kolah, the general advice which all new aspirants received was that the profession was overcrowded. Today my advice to a new entrant is that with the creation of so many Tribunals, Commissions and quasi-judicial authorities, there is unbounded scope for a person with reasonable intelligence, a little more common sense and the capacity to take pains. The great change between now and, say, 30 years ago (and undoubtedly 50 years ago) is the desire in the profession whether of chartered accountancy or of law (and even of medicine) to increase the `turnover’, which is a term that causes so many interpretation problems insofar as S. 44AB and S-80HHC are concerned!

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Fali S. Nariman – Judges are not fragile flowers to wilt in the heat of criticism

fali s nariman

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

Fali S. Nariman, the doyen of the profession, recently completed 56 years of practice.

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.
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Rustom. J. Kolah

rustom j kolah

In this fascinating personal account, eminent senior advocate, Sohrab E. Dastur walks down memory lane and reminisces about his own senior. One incident that stands out is where Sohrab Dastur was tempted to join Industry after he got a ‘fascinating’ offer and changed his mind only after he was severely reprimanded by Rustom Kolah

To write about a personality like Mr. R. J. Kolah in whose chamber I cut my teeth at the bar is difficult because so many memories and thoughts come flashing back. I first saw Mr. Kolah in 1957. On a visit to Delhi for an all-India debating competition, we decided to visit the Supreme Court which was then in Parliament Building. The Court was hearing a challenge to the constitutional vires of the Bombay Labour Welfare Fund Act. We heard a most persuasive argument from a man of medium height and spare build who was later identified as Mr. Kolah. The judges heard him with rapt attention, a phenomenon I witnessed repeatedly thereafter.

After I passed the examination for “the office of an Advocate of the High Court at Bombay”, as the qualifying examination was then known, I had to decide on the “line” to pursue and the chambers to join. Having been (now, as it happens, very fortunately) turned down by one chamber, my father and I approached Mr. Manek (Botty) Mistry of Messrs. Kalyaniwalla & Mistry who was a great friend of Mr. Kolah. He immediately rang up “Rustom” and I could hear the voice at the other end say that he should ask the “boy” to see him the next day at 9.45. Kolah (at Bar, the juniormost advocate is supposed to refer to the seniormost by his surname) had a place in the chambers of Sir Jamshedji Kanga, which chambers were then located on the ground floor of the High Court on the left hand side as one entered the High Court from the gate near the University. The interview was brief. He accepted me saying how could he turn down a request from “Botty”. He later confided to me that I could have come through my father because he remembered him from his days with Payne and Co. in the late 1920s, when he used to visit the liquidators’ office and my father was there as an auditor. When I recounted this to my father he was surprised that Mr. Kolah still recalled those few meetings. He told me that Kolah used to come from Payne & Co. always wearing a “Parsi cap.” This was but one illustration of Kolah’s phenomenal memory – for cases, facts and faces. Whatever be the size of the brief and howsoever complicated the facts, he never made detailed notes and sometimes just jotted down a few dates. He said that one should not become “notes bound” because one then tends to get tied down to the “plan” and one does not “go” with the judge as one always must. This was in marked contrast to a neighbour, when we were in chamber No. 2 in the High Court, who used to mark his briefs at the first reading in pencil, then in blue, black and red ink. There was a problem when the matter was adjourned for the fourth time!

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N. A. Palkhivala

N. A. Palkhivala

It is given to few to be considered a legend in their lifetime: Palkhivala’s greatness as an advocate can be attributed to an incredibly analytical mind, a prodigious memory and a lucidity that made the most complex argument simple to the meanest intelligence. Add to this a felicity of expression that elevated that argument to something that resembled an essay in classical prose and you have Nani Palkhivala

To most practitioners of income-tax law, N. A. Palkhivala is best known as the author of the treatise “The law and practice of income-tax” which he wrote in collaboration with Jamshedji Kanga (“Kanga & Palkhivala”). A crisp commentary on the complicated subject, giving you almost predictively, a judgement on the very point you were looking for.

The treatise was written when Palkhivala was only 30 years old. That gives you an idea as to the genius of the man.

Another introduction to Palkhivala is through the judgements. Almost every important judgement on income-tax where the core principles have been laid has been argued by Nani Palhkivala. But it would be a mistake to think that his contribution was confined to income-tax law. His contribution to the development of constitutional law is also incredible with landmark cases like that of Bank Nationalization, Privy Purses, Golak Nath, Keshavanand Bharathi and Minerva Mills.

Palkhivala’s magic is best understood by looking at him from the perspective of other legends.

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