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It is the end of an era spanning over three generations. It is not often that one family has dominated the legal domain in Calcutta, and in a large measure in the whole of India, for decades. Each of the stalwarts from three generations strode the field of law like a Colossus, and the sad demise of Pratapda (Pratap Chatterjee) can be, and has been aptly described as a colossal loss.
The glorious journey of the family in the field of law and in public life began with Late NC Chatterjee, a doyen of the Bar in the whole of India and a distinguished parliamentarian. His legacy was taken over and taken forward by the Late Somnath Chatterjee, who became a legend in his lifetime. Pratapda emerged as an equally eminent and distinguished torchbearer of that great legacy.
Pratapda was one of the all-time greats as a lawyer. His erudition, which he made look simple, has always left me awestruck. He was a versatile genius who strode every branch of law with equal ease and elan. The intellectual sparks that flew in courtroom exchanges between him and the Bench and between him and the opponent counsel were a feast for every intellectual appetite. To put it in few words, Pratapda was a complete lawyer who could match any iconic figure in the national legal domain.
Besides being a lawyer par excellence, Pratapda was a great human being. He was an affectionate senior in the profession and perfectly fitted the mould of an elder brother who would always be around with a helping hand in times of need. He, however, did not mince words on issues on which criticism was justified. He was never afraid to call a spade a spade.
Pratapda also had a great sense of humour and extensive knowledge in a variety of subjects apart from law, including medicine. He was a voracious reader of all subjects.
Today, the Calcutta High Court in particular, and the legal fraternity in general, has lost one of its all-time iconic figures and the institution stands poorer from all angles. He leaves behind a void which is hard to fill. His memories will hopefully continue to inspire the younger generation of lawyers and also future generations. May his soul rest in peace.
Abhijit Chatterjee is a Senior Advocate at the Calcutta High Court.