Fali S. Nariman – Top Quotes

“One very important thing that young lawyers must know is that when one argues a case and later in the evening you ponder over it and say, that’s what I should have said (but you never said it), that’s the only regret. It could have been the winning point or something you wish you had not said, which is even worse. If you get angry at that point in the courtroom, losing your temper can be a disaster. You can’t afford it because your client suffers and nobody likes you for it. It all comes with age and practice.”

“We should avoid relying on high-profile lawyers (with political inclinations) because with their argumentative skills, they are able to rationalize all forms of tyranny.”

“Lord Atkin once said that an impartial administration of the law is like oxygen in the air; people know and care little about it till it is withdrawn.”

“Law is a matter of the heart, as well as the head. You have to have compassion; it is one of the greatest qualities. Lord Denning and Justice Krishna Iyer have both said that compassion is extraordinarily important in the law, amongst lawyers and particularly amongst Judges. One must be able to assess whether a person has something genuine to say in a case.”

“Edmund Burke used to say that the study of law ‘renders men acute’, and that ‘they are able to augur misgovernment at a distance and sniff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze’.”

“We in this country also need to make sure that the doors of learning are always kept open because India still belongs to the developing world.”

“When you mention a famous race horse, they always ask you, ‘From which stable?’ The stable is important. It establishes the ancestry and the breed. When you name a lawyer who has done well, people ask you, ‘From which chamber?’ The chamber is important. It establishes the hierarchy and cultural tradition in which the lawyer has been reared.”

“Because these two judges showed to their generation of justices, and the generation after that, as to how to approach cases that came before the highest court. It is because judges with a political or social agenda are so few in number that they are long remembered. I have always considered it significant and beneficial for the development of the law in India that judges-without-an-agenda have been the more numerous”

“I generally keep up to date with recent academic writings in law and literature; and to keep myself up to date I also subscribe to and browse through the New York Review of Books – a bi-weekly feature which gives all the current publications around the world – as well as the London Review of Books.”

“As a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha, your most important intervention was in suggesting that before investigating corruption allegations against senior officers, the CBI should get approval from the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) rather than the government. Didn’t the rejection of your proposal show that all political parties are united in shielding corrupt officers?”

“The two great institutions of state to which I have been privileged to belong do appear from time to time to compromise themselves, as you say. However, I must assure you that but for these two great institutions we would never have emerged as a vibrant democracy. The late Justice R S Pathak once used a nice metaphor when I asked him how he would like to be remembered as a judge of the Supreme Court. He told me, with becoming humility: Every judge when he leaves the court must satisfy himself that he has left a little brick of his own making in that great edifice that is the Supreme Court of India.”

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