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Champion of free speech and privacy : Justice Nariman retires

| Updated: August 12, 2021 14:18

Justice Rohinton  Nariman, who is demitting office today has certainly earned a place of pride in the pantheon of legal luminaries in independent India quite like his illustrious father Fali Nariman. 

A postgraduate from Harvard Law School and an ordained Parsi priest, Nariman was designated as a senior counsel in 1993 and later went on to be appointed as Solicitor General of India in July 2011 which he eventually gave up in 2013 following difference with the then Law Miniter Ashwini Kumar, if rumours are to be believed. Though by July 2014, as a fourth such counsel to be a beneficiary of  direct elevation from Bar to Bench, he was sworn in as Supreme Court Judge, the office which he demits today after a seven years eventful stint. 

Justice Nariman leaves behind a legacy of important and far reaching judgements which sought to protect notions of free speech, privacy and personal liberty, sanitize politics, put checks on constitutional authorities and recalcitrant businesses and safeguard gender justice. 

His landmark judgements, as part of a bench or while heading it, include striking down controversial Section 66A from the Information Technology Act, 2000 , holding Islamic religious custom of triple talaq unconstitutional, decriminalising homosexuality and by striking down Section 497 of the IPC that made adultery a punishable offence for men, saying the 158-year-old law was unconstitutional and not in sync with the Articles 21 and 14, Right to life and personal liberty and Right to equality respectively. 

Justice Nariman has been part of many a legal benches which delivered judgements of far reaching consequences. Such as Aadhar judgement where it was proclaimed that “privacy is intrinsic to freedom of life and personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of Constitution “ and  Shabrimala judgement which favoured doing away with the restrictions on entry of women of a particular age in the Sabarimala shrine.  

The list is long. As part of the bench, Justice Nariman saw through the updation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) for Assam , directed installation of CCTV in offices of central agencies such as the CBI and NIA and in all police stations, upheld the creamy layer principle of excluding the affluent among SC/STs from the ambit of reservation. 

A bench headed by him had Reliance Communications Ltd chairman Anil Ambani guilty of contempt of court  for not honouring an undertaking to pay the dues to Ericsson India Ltd. 

Justice Nariman also directed political parties to make public criminal cases against its candidates within a stipulated time. In May 2016, Justice Nariman held to made telecom providers liable to credit each calling consumer Re 1 for each call drop  

 While on August 6, 2021, a bench headed by him upheld the an interim award of the, Singapore International Arbitration Centre, restraining Future Retail Limited from selling its assets to Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Infrastructure Group in a multi-billion deal, a bench headed by him held nine political parties guilty of contempt as late as on last Tuesday 

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