Former Attorney General of India and renowned jurist Soli Sorabjee died of Covid-19 at a private hospital in New Delhi last week. He was 91. Serving as a legal professional for nearly seven decades, Sorabjee occupied the highest office of the attorney general of India twice - first from 1989-90 and then from 1998-2004.
Tributes poured in from across the country, including President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “In passing of Soli Sorabjee, we lost an icon of India’s legal system. He was among select few who deeply influenced the evolution of the constitutional law and justice system. Awarded with Padma Vibhushan, he was among most eminent jurists. Condolences to his family and associates,” President Kovind said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to write: “Shri Soli Sorabjee was 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 of India’s Attorney General. Saddened by his demise. Condolences to his family and admirers.”
The Supreme Court paid homage to the former attorney general. A bench of Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and AS Bopanna, just before the start of the day’s court proceedings via video conference, said, “It a very sad news that human rights fighter Soli has passed away this morning. We pray for the gentle soul.”
Soli started his career in 1953 at the Bombay High Court. He was famously assisting Nani Palkhivala, another Parsi courtroom genius in the landmark Keshavananda Bharati case who argued against the government. In 1971, Soli was designated a senior advocate. In 2002, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian honour in the country.
In his long innings at the Bar, Soli was renowned for his work on human rights. In 1997, he was appointed by the UN as a Special Rapporteur for Nigeria to report on the human rights conditions in the country. From 1998-2004, he was also the Chairman of the UN sub-committee on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights. In the court, Soli was known for his quick wit and perceptive style of argument. He was also a jazz enthusiast.
Soli is survived by his wife Zena Sorabjee and three children. His daughter Zia Mody, who is the only one to take up the legal profession among his three children, is the founding partner of AZB & Partners - one of India’s leading corporate law firms.