Justice Rohinton Nariman, Judge of the Indian Supreme Court, and son of the eminent lawyer Fali Nariman is in my opinion one of the best judges in the Supreme Court today. It is a pity he will be retiring in August this year at the age of 65.
Before he was appointed as a judge in the Supreme Court ( directly from the bar ) he was a prominent lawyer in the Supreme Court and had appeared before me in several cases in my Court. He is very learned and was a very good lawyer. Unfortunately, he had one defect, which was his short temper.
Judges of the Supreme Court all have lunch together on Wednesdays. Many also have lunch together in smaller groups on other days. I was a member of a group of about 6 or 7 judges who had lunch together on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the chamber of Justice S.B.Sinha, the seniormost amongst us.
One Tuesday or Thursday Justice Ravindran, who was also in our group, came for lunch looking very upset. Justice Ravindran is a very polite and affable gentleman, who never raises his voice, but this day he seemed very perturbed. I asked him what was the matter. He said that in a case before his bench Rohinton’s case was dismissed, which made him so angry that he banged his file on the table and left the Courtroom in a huff.
The next day during lunchtime when I was alone in my chamber I sent my peon to Rohinton and requested him to meet me. When he came, I gave him a seat, and asked him his age. He said he was 52. I said I was 62, so I was going to talk to him as an elder brother, not as a Judge.
I then told him what Justice Ravindran had told me. Rohinton said he had a very good case and it was wrongly dismissed.
At this I told him “ Rohinton, let me tell you an incident which happened when I was a relatively junior lawyer in the Allahabad High Court. I once had what I thought was a very good case, but it was dismissed by Justice CSP Singh, a very good judge of the High Court. I was therefore very upset.
Shortly thereafter when I went to the bar library, a very senior lawyer of the High Court, Mr PC Chaturvedi, who was sitting there, saw me and on seeing me looking glum beckoned me. He asked me what was the matter. I narrated what had happened. He then said ‘ Markandey, let us assume you had a good case which should not have been dismissed. But were there not some cases which you took up which you thought were weak, but the judge thought otherwise, and passed an order favourable to your client? ‘. I said that that is also true. He then said that balances the matter, and this is part of advocacy. So I should not feel upset ”.
Having narrated this to Rohinton, I said that if you lose your temper in court it will adversely affect your practice, since other lawyers, who are jealous of you, will spread the rumour that you fight with judges, and clients will stop engaging you.
At this Rohinton thanked me profusely, and thereafter even if I dismissed some case of his he would smile and sit down.
After he became a judge, I was once informed that in a case which was being argued before him he said he will have a lawyer thrown out of court since he had insulted the Attorney General. I telephoned him in the evening, and told him this was not proper. If a lawyer misbehaves in court the appropriate thing for the judge is to tell him that he will not be heard if he behaves in that manner. Rohinton admitted his mistake.
Rohinton has maintained the highest standards of integrity and judicial independence. He is presently in the Supreme Court Collegium, the body which recommends appointment of Supreme Court Judges, and I was informed that he has said he will oppose any recommendation unless it also includes the name of Justice Akil Kureshi, presently CJ of Tripura High Court, who had, when a Judge of Gujarat High Court, sent Amit Shah to jail, and was for this reason victimised by sending him to a small High Court.
The whole country will miss an outstanding judge when Rohinton retires in August this year.
(By Justice Markandey Katju’s FB post with courtesy)
(Justice Markandey Katju is former Chairman, Press Council of India and former Judge, Supreme Court of India.)
Justice Rohinton Nariman, Judge of the Indian Supreme Court, and son of the eminent lawyer Fali Nariman,…