Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud on Saturday said that eminent jurist and renowned economist Nani Palkhivala dedicated his life to preserve the rights given in the Constitution and shaped the history of contemporary India through his contribution to law and economics.
The CJI said that while thinking about what to speak on Palkhivala, he remembered that economics was his passion. In a way, this lecture was a tribute to the brilliant lawyer. If not for Nani, the country would not have had the basic structure doctrine, he added.
Delivering the 18th Nani Palkhivala Memorial Lecture organised by the Bombay Bar Association at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in Mumbai, the CJI said that he was honoured to speak about Palkhivala, who was a man of different facets, an eminent lawyer and a great orator.
He said Nani delivered his first post-budget speech where the Taj is located now. The locations changed from Cowasji Road to Brabon Stadium. As per the CJI, he used to attend those lectures, which pulled in more crowds than a cricket match.
He said that in 1973, the basic structure doctrine was formally introduced in the landmark verdict delivered by the largest ever Constitution Bench of 13 Judges in the Kesavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala case.
The CJI said that Palkhivala argued for petitioners for 31 days in the case that lasted for 66 days for 5 months. The CJI further said Palkhivala prepared thoroughly. There was a young girl who visited the hearing. She asked one day who was this young man interrogating these well-dressed sitting gentlemen.
However, the hearing did not go as planned. The eminent lawyer was stormed with a barrage of questions from the Bench. At the end of the long rant by the Judge about socialism, Nani said that only an imbecile would jump the Berlin Wall from the west to the east, recalled the CJI.
The Supreme Court then ruled that while Parliament had the power to change any part of the Constitution, it could not do so by changing the basic structure of the Constitution. It was a slime 7-6 ratio, but still a verdict of 13 Judges, added Justice Chandrachud.
He said the identity of the Indian Constitution has evolved, but the craftsmanship of a judgement still lay in keeping the soul intact. The rule of law and separation of powers, dignity of the individual, the basic structure has taken different avatars.
CJI Chandrachud said that the basic structure doctrine was taken to Nepal and Pakistan from India.
As per the CJI, Nani was the go-to man of the nation during the times of turbulence. He played a major role in shaping jurisprudence. As a thinker on economics, Nani spoke against the dogmas of the day.
He said Nani was in his own way a true family person. There was mutual admiration, respect and companionship, which helped him pursue his profession with ease.
The CJI said that his parents were very close to Nani and Nargesh. He recalled that when the call came for the Supreme Court, Nani told his father that he should not take the offer, as he (Justice Y.V. Chandrachud) was safer in Mumbai than in Delhi. The CJI said that he was truly ‘awestruck’ by Nani’s wit and charm.
He further talked about how Nani once represented and returned the brief of Indira Gandhi, stating that Palkhivala’s life should be looked at from the standpoint of historical events.
The ink was barely dry from the British Raj when the country had the licence Raj. Nani was against the policies that denied people their liberties and freedom. In 1958, Nani delivered his first post-budget speech. He performed the role of educating the masses. The government of the day was also trying to bring about social change, added Justice Chandrachud.
He recounted how Palkhivala had welcomed the liberalisation policy of the government in 1991. During his 1992 post budget speech, Nani said if India wanted to grow and prosper, it had no option but to integrate with the global economy.
This revolution enabled India to harness into a vibrant software industry. Palkhivala was one of the founding members of Tata Consultancy Services, the CJI highlighted in his speech.
He said the Indian Constitution did not favour liberalism, but knew how to strike the right balance, permitting the state to change policies for growth.
Cultures across the world relied on prophets to tell people whether they were walking on the wrong path. Nani was one such prophet, he added.
He said one thing that disheartened Nani was the delays in Justice. Nani used to say that since the Indians believed in the afterlife, they expected cases to come up in that life.
During the event, CJI Chandrachud launched a book titled, Early writings of Nani Palkhivala, a compilation of the articles written by Palkhivala in local publications during his adolescent days. He also gave the Civil Liberties Award Citation to former Mumbai Police Commissioner Julio Ribeiro on the occasion.