Those memories will never fade: K Parasaran's tribute to Fali Nariman

Senior Advocate and former Attorney General of India K Parasaran pays tribute to his friend, the late Fali S Nariman.
Fali Nariman, K Parasaran
Fali Nariman, K Parasaran

The news of your passing has struck me hard.

Even as I mourn your loss, the fond memories of our interactions over half a century replay before me.

It was the year 1972. I was the Standing Counsel for the Central government in the State of Tamil Nadu, and you were the Additional Solicitor General of India. You had flown down to Chennai for a couple of matters in which I was assisting you.

One was a Habeas Corpus petition and the other was a writ petition against the Union Territory of Pondicherry. After the case hearing concluded, I recall your coming up to me and saying,

“Parasaran, it is time for you to shift to Delhi.”

For someone who had spent his entire life within the 5-kilometre radius of my residence in Chennai, little did I know that I would be spending the next half a century in the national capital and before the Supreme Court. 

I reminisce the cases that we appeared in together as well as the cases where we were on opposite sides. Our friendship grew strong when we appeared on the same side in cases such as the SP Mittal v. Union of India or the Madras Race Club matter, and it grew stronger when we were pitted against each other.

During the charged atmosphere in the Cauvery river water dispute, there was a moment when our arguments turned intense. The war of words led to one of the members of the Tribunal expressing concern if we two friends would ever see each other eye-to-eye. Your sense of humour saved the day when you spontaneously replied,

“My Lords, this case has brought us even closer. Now, we see eyeball to eyeball.” 

We continued crossing swords, so to say, in several other cases including the Bhopal Gas Tragedy case, Mafatlal Industries, Ahmedabad v. Union of India, the Judges Appointment cases, among others, until together we recently received the Vidhi Ratna Award from the Bar Council of India in September 2023. 

In Doypack Systems Pvt. Ltd. v. Union of India, we were appearing against each other.  During the course of my arguments, I indulged in my usual story-telling about a guru teaching a student about mithya (maya), when a tiger appears menacingly. The guru takes to his heels. The perplexed student queries the guru, “If it's mithya, why are you running away?” to which the guru remarks, “My running is also mithya.”

At this moment, when you rushed into the courtroom, I couldn’t help but remark much to the amusement of the Court that,

“Talk about a tiger and a tiger enters the court hall.”

A tiger you indeed were, Fali!

My memories of you will never fade, my dear friend…

K Parasaran is a Senior Advocate and former Attorney General for India.

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