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Soli Sorabjee, Former Attorney General, Dies Of COVID-19

Soli Sorabjee was involved in many landmark Supreme Court cases and argued for free speech.


  • He is remembered as one of India’s finest legal minds
  • He was born in Mumbai in 1930, started his law practice in 1953
  • He became Attorney General first in 1989, then from 1998 to 2004

New Delhi:

Former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee, one of India’s finest legal minds, died of Covid this morning. He was 91.

A senior lawyer and Padma Vibhushan recipient, Soli Sorabjee was being treated at a private hospital in Delhi.

Chief Justice of India NV Ramanna was among those who paid tribute to Soli Sorabjee. ” Sad news. One of our legal luminaries and human rights activists, Soli Sorabjee, passed away. May his soul rest in peace,” the Chief Justice said.

Soli Jehangir Sorabjee was born in Mumbai in 1930.

He showed early promise as a student at the prestigious Government Law College in Mumbai, the alma mater of BR Ambedkar, the architect of the constitution. Mr Sorabjee won a gold medal in Roman law and jurisprudence.

He started his law practice in 1953 with the Bombay High Court. In 1971, he was designated senior counsel by the Supreme Court.

The legal titan was involved in many landmark Supreme Court cases and argued for free speech and press freedom, limiting the police power of the state and a vibrant democracy protected from overreach by Prime Ministers and Governors.

As a junior to the iconic Nani Palkivala, a giant of constitutional law, Mr Sorabjee was involved in the Kesavananda Bharti case that sought to protect the basic structure of the Constitution. He was also a part of the Bommai judgement, which cracked down on the misuse of Article 356 by the centre to dismiss state governments.

During the Emergency of 1975 imposed by Indira Gandhi’s Congress government, Mr Sorabjee emerged as a fierce defender of human rights and media freedoms.

Mr Sorabjee became Attorney General first in 1989 and then from 1998 to 2004.

A passionate human rights lawyer, Mr Sorabjee was appointed a UN Special Rapporteur for Nigeria in 1997.

He joined the UN Sub-Commission on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and was its chairman from 1998 to 2004. He was also a member of the UN Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities.

Mr Sorabjee served as a member of the UN world court or the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague from 2000 to 2006.

In 2002, he became a member of the Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution of India.

A prolific writer, he was known for his love for Jazz; he was one of the founders of the Jazz Yatra concert series, which saw the best names in Indian and global jazz tour the country.

Last year, when India was in lockdown, jazz musicians held an online concert in his honour.

Soli Sorabjee’s legal legacy lives on in his daughter Zia Mody, who has emerged as one of India’s top corporate lawyers. One of his sons, Jehangir, is a doctor and the other, Hormuzd, a car expert.

Many, from the Prime Minister to the Chief Justice of India, paid homage to the legend.

“Soli J Sorabjee served the office of Attorney General of India twice with great distinction. His humane and compassionate approach defined his legal work. His body of work, spread over nearly seven decades, in defending the fundamental rights and human rights is of international repute. He will be remembered as a legend who added strength to the pillars of democracy,” said Chief Justice Ramanna.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi described Mr Sorabjee as an outstanding lawyer and intellectual.

“Through law, he was at the forefront of helping the poor and downtrodden. He will be remembered for his noteworthy tenures India’s Attorney General. Saddened by his demise. Condolences to his family and admirers,” PM Modi tweeted.

Mr Sorabjee had been, since 2013, NDTV’s ombudsman, as a watchdog of the news network’s coverage and to investigate viewers’ complaints.

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