14 Aug 2021 6:49 AM GMT
Retired Supreme Court judge Justice Rohinton Nariman advised young lawyers and students to do as much diverse studies as they can of things outside the field of law."The more diverse your experience in life, the more you have to do with subjects other than the law, the more it helps you in the law. Peculiar as it may sound. Because the law is greatly interconnected, and you realize this as...
Retired Supreme Court judge Justice Rohinton Nariman advised young lawyers and students to do as much diverse studies as they can of things outside the field of law.
"The more diverse your experience in life, the more you have to do with subjects other than the law, the more it helps you in the law. Peculiar as it may sound. Because the law is greatly interconnected, and you realize this as a Judge of the SC more than anywhere else.
One realizes how there is a huge interconnection with every part of the law and you become so much more of a lawyer when you are able to understand basic principles applicable to tax law, which is different from constitutional law, which is in turn different from civil law.
All these put together, make you a far better lawyer. And best of all is if you have an experience like me of first becoming a priest and then going and studying the constitution (American Constitution), which is the mother of all constitutions, I think it helps enormously", he said.
"So my advice to today's youth is to try and do as many diverse things as possible. If it is possible for you to do a science degree before a law degree, do it. Everything helps in the law. In patent law, for example, you need to know chemistry. It is very useful to have a diverse background", he suggested.
He was speaking at a virtual farewell function organized by the Bombay Bar Association yesterday. He had superannuated from the Supreme Court on August 12 after a seven year tenure as a judge.
Justice Nariman recounted how he learnt the most important lessons of "discipline" and "chiselling of the memory" back then. But what it didn't give him was his love for comparative religion, he said.
"My stint as a priest as a 12- year-old has moulded my life considerably. First and foremost, I belong to great tradition. The Parsi priest who has turned lawyer and not practising priest," Justice Rohinton Nariman.
"When you study your own faith with various other faiths, everything becomes so much richer," Justice Nariman, who has devoured the Bhagwat Gita, the Quran and several other texts, said.
He candidly spoke about his faith, his varied interests, the lessons he learned at Harvard Law, and the three books he has written. His third book, Discordant Notes - The Voice of Dissent in a Court of Last Resort, is about the fate of dissenting judgements in the Supreme Court.
There were 265 attendees in the meeting, including senior members of BBA and Justice Rohinton's father - Fali Nariman.
Justice Nariman said he followed in the footsteps of greats like Sir Dinshaw Mulla, an author par excellence, solicitor and member of the Privy Council, Sir Jamshedji Kanga Doyen of the Bombay Bar and eminent jurist Hormasji Seervai. All of them, priests turned lawyers.
"The tradition(priest) stands for discipline…It proved to be one of the greatest experiences of my life because it taught me to be so many things." Justice Nariman added that being a priest was rigorous as he had to stay in seclusion, pray five times a day, and rote learn prayers.
"As a 12-year child who was used to going to a school (Cathedral And John Connon School) only a kilometre away, my universe was limited and small. Suddenly you are almost incarcerated in a fire temple for 28 days. I was used to air conditioning comfort, but for the first time, I had to sleep on a leather bed on the floor with a little fan on top in the month of may…"
However, the rote learning did not help him when he was asked to explain his religion which is how he began reading translations and other religious texts. "I vowed I would never look idiotic again in public."
Justice Nariman said that while he was at Havard, he was shocked to learn that the US constitution, the oldest written constitution known to mankind, had three provisions that endorsed slavery up to a point.
"Of course, the seeds of the civil war were laid already in the constitution, and after the civil war, the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments did away with slavery. But they didn't do away with discrimination, not really. We find that even till today, somehow or the other, the ghosts of the past keep stalking us."
On His Books
It took thirty-years to write his first book, but the other two happened during the six weeks of Covid-19 lockdown, Justice Nariman says.
"In the first 6 week of the pandemic, we were incarcerated with nothing to do. I did intense research. And I wrote this book", he said.
In his third book on dissent, Justice Nariman states that he has dedicated an entire chapter to four judges he calls "The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse."
"I have given each one of them a different epithet. I have called Justice Fazal Ali, "The Prophet" because he was the most prophetic of the lot, I have called Justice Bose "The Law as Literature" , Chief Justice Subba Rao as the "Man imbued with Fundamental Rights" and finally Chief Justice Hidayatullah as "The Scholar Judge."
Senior Advocate Janak Dwarkadas quoted William Shakespeare, "..be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em."
"I think Ro is all three…", the senior counsel fondly called Justice Nariman 'Ro'.
Talking about the time Nariman was contemplating taking up a judgeship, "Ro said he has taken an oath that he will be a kind judge and show kindness and consideration the most to juniors. I can vouch he stuck to that oath till the very end. The oath and the promise he made to himself must not be easy."
Senior Advocate Darius Khambata said "The most important mark that he will leave is the hope he has given to young lawyers that the man as straight, honest and plain talking, for whom the truth is the path to happiness could be elevated to the highest court of the land, could sit there for 7 years giving judgements and could out in this sort of blaze of glory..."
President of Bombay Bar Association Nitin Thakkar gave the welcome note at the event.
Also Read: Justice Rohinton Nariman's Legacy: Notable Judgments On Liberties, Orientation To IBC & Arbitration