Palkhivala’s legacy in present times

Palkhivala’s legacy in present times

Essays and Reminiscences: A Festschrift in Honour of Nani A. Palkhivala edited by Arvind P Datar. LexisNexis. Pages 532. Rs795

Book Title: Essays and Reminiscences: A Festschrift in Honour of Nani A. Palkhivala

Author: Arvind P Datar

Vishavjeet Chaudhary

To lawyers, and to non lawyers, the great late Nani Palkhivala’s legacy holds great importance and intrigue. While the drafters of the Constitution and the doyens of the justice system ensured rule of law, it was certainly people like Palkhivala who were instrumental in churning the system and putting our legal systems and democracy to test. This collection of wonderful essays is certainly a wonderful tribute.

Arvind P. Datar, himself an eminent jurist and a designated senior lawyer, has accomplished a wonderful task by editing this memorable book. At the outset, the list of contributors is impressive. Not only does it encompass authors from a diverse range of professions, it also covers a huge spectrum of ages. The list of contributors includes legal luminaries like KK Venugopal, Fali S. Nariman, Zia Mody, Justice Easwar, Gautam Bhatia and Iqbal Chagla. It also includes eminent activists like Dr Chandrachud, Dr Swaminathan and Dr Dipankar Gupta. These are, of course, just a few to name.

The book is a tribute to Nani Palkhivala,
who was instrumental in churning the
system and putting our legal systems and
democracy to the test. Tribune file photo

With such a wide array of contributors, the book is bound to be an interesting read. What is particularly useful is that the book is divided into topics. The first part contains essays on Constitutional law, taxation, technology and economics and governance. The second part has heart-stirring reminiscences. As a rare treat, part III has articles by ‘young Nani.’ These provide an inside-out view into his life, thoughts and inclinations. His piece, All About Newspapers, is evokes a vast range of emotions. The final part brings out historical pieces — his correspondence. This truly shows the range of his interactions.

The book is a rare combination, to use the cliché, of and ‘mind’ and ‘heart.’ It serves to raise important matters of constitutionality, legality, democratic rights, taxation, common law and other legal conundrums. Cases like the landmark Kesavnanda Bharati case in which Palkhivala convinced 13 judges that some features of the Constitution are part of the basic doctrine and cannot be amended even if the Parliament decides to; and the case are commented upon — in both matters Palkhivala was counsel. It also simultaneously talks about the man, his brilliance, sharp wit, generosity, discipline and selflessness as well as his admiration that transcends professions, causes and generations. He, for instance, fought the cases of those affected by the Emergency — giving them greater priority and without any fees.

The book is a deep insight into the professional, and to some extent personal life of Palkhivala. What is most commendable is that it goes beyond and also links the legacy of Palkhivala to present times. Values that are just as important today, and will be just as important tomorrow, are opined on. In many ways this gives a sense of viewing the world through the lens of one of the greatest giants of the legal world.

The subject matter of the book is incredibly broad and interesting. With its breadth spanning across such wide areas, it surely will interest, and indeed, impress lawyers and non-lawyers alike. Matters of democracy, Constitution and tax, etc. are certainly not only the preserve of lawyers — and shouldn’t be perceived as such.

Walking through the famed halls of the Supreme Court one feels the nostalgia of the institution — the dress code remains largely unchanged, the forms of address and etiquette is one that has a rich legacy. The book adds to that tradition, and in a very rich way. It certainly is a wonderful read and one for the collection.

In today’s world of quick resolutions and reactions, decisions and deliberations, this book is a slow and smooth dose of eloquence. It breadth, as well as depth are both very impressive.