Defender of Free Press & Human Rights, Soli Sorabjee Passes Away

Soli Sorabjee had been the Attorney General of India twice between 1989 and 2004.

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Video Editor: Naman Shah

Video Producer: Shohini Bose

Veteran lawyer and former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee passed away at the age of 91, on 30 April Friday, after getting infected with COVID-19.

He was not only an eminent jurist, but also a great defender of freedom of speech. His sudden demise will have left a big impact on the Indian press, as he had played an important role in revoking orders on censorship and bans on publications.

While he served the office of Solicitor General of India from 1977 to 1980, he had been the Attorney General of India twice, first between 1989-90 and then once again between 1998-2004.

Sorabjee: A Constitutional Crusader

Born to a Parsi family in 1930, Jehangir Soli Sorabjee studied at St Xaviers College in Mumbai, and, later at the Government Law College.

He was admitted to the Bar in 1953, and designated Senior Advocate by the Bombay High Court in 1971.

Sorabjee was in involved in some of the biggest constitutional law cases in Indian legal history, including the landmark Kesavananda Bharati case in 1973, that set to outline the basic structure doctrine of the Indian Constitution.

He was also a part of the Maneka Gandhi Case of 1978, which played a big role in broadening the judicial view on Article 21 of the Constitution.

In 1994, he was the counsel on the behalf of a petitioner in SR Bommai vs Union of India case, which discussed at length provisions of Article 365 that allows President's rule to be imposed over state governments.

Sorabjee’s Stint With the UN

In 1997, he was appointed by the UN as a Special Rapporteur for Nigeria, to report on the human rights situation in that country.

He then become a member and later Chairman of the UN-Sub Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, between 1998 to 2004.

He was also a member of the United Nations Sub-commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities since 1998, along with serving as a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague from 2000 to 2006.

Sorabjee was awarded with Padma Vibhushan — the second highest civilian award, in 2002 for his defense of freedom of speech and protection of human rights.

He is survived by his wife, a daughter and two sons.

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