N. A. Palkhivala

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Nani Ardeshir Palkhivala (1920-2002) was a colossus among lawyers and a giant among men. He combined eloquence with wisdom, sincerity with versatility, vision with achievement. His pride of place in the legal firmament stems from his defence of the rights of the citizen against the Government in the great cases of the 1960's and the 1970's — Golaknath and Keshavananda Bharathi which circumscribed the right of Parliament to affect fundamental rights while amending the Constitution, the bank nationalisation case, rights of minorities to run educational institutions of their choice, the privy purses case, issues of freedom of the press and arbitrary restrictions on newspapers. In each of these he dealt with the matter on hand against the backdrop of the vision of the Founding Fathers, combining unassailable logic with deep learning, to turn out one victory after another.

Years before he became the eminence in constitutional law, Palkhivala was an authority on the law of taxation. Barely four years at the Bar, be brought out the Law and Practice of Income-Tax, which became the defining treatise on the subject. So much so that Chief Justice Chagla, when faced with a knotty tax case would ask, "What does the book say?"

His writings include, Our Constitution Defaced and Defiled — a book, which not only showed up legislature and executive for default and foul play, but more importantly, sought to instil in citizens an awareness of their sacred duty to the spirit of liberty and democracy.We, the People and We, the Nation speaks of a range of issues and public causes, which he espoused passionately. India's Priceless Heritage and Essential Unity of all Religions show how this man of law and the corporate world delved deeply into the realms of spirituality. Nani Palkhivala - Selected Writings, a 1999 publication, brings out his erudition, wit, and originality of thought across a range of subjects from the Philosophy of Life to Constitutional Reform, from Lawyers in the Dock to the Humanistic Face of Capitalism, from the Treason of the Intellectual to the personalities who have shaped him most — Adi Sankaracharya, Sri Aurobindo, the Mahatma, Jamshedji Kanga whose chambers he joined, Judge par excellence M.C. Chagla and Nusserwanji P. Pavri. The last is an unknown name among the galaxy of the great and it is typical of Palkhivala to remember his schoolteacher to whom "life has not given his meed of reward" as one who encouraged his pupils to "disinterested labour both in trying to do good and in trying to find out what the good is".

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