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In Memoriam: Fali S. Nariman – A Titan of Indian International Legal Practice

Updated: Feb 22

The legal fraternity and the world at large mourn the passing of Fali Sam Nariman, a luminary whose contributions to the field of law have left an indelible mark on both national and international jurisprudence. Renowned for his eloquence, integrity, and unwavering commitment to justice, Nariman's legacy is a testament to a life devoted to the service of law and the principles of human dignity. In this remembrance, one delves into specific facets of his illustrious career, particularly his perspectives on international jurisprudence, his involvement with the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), and his views on the use of nuclear weapons, drawing upon a selection of his notable contributions and public statements.


Champion of International Jurisprudence


Fali Nariman's insights into international jurisprudence, especially regarding the contentious issue of nuclear weapons, underscore his belief in the power of international law to safeguard humanity's future. In an opinion piece highlighted by the Indian Express, Nariman argued against the use of nuclear weapons, emphasizing the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences that would ensue from their deployment. His arguments were not only rooted in legal precedents but also in a profound concern for human rights and the principles enshrined in international humanitarian law. This article exemplified his ability to weave together legal arguments with moral imperatives, advocating for a world where disputes are resolved through dialogue and legal frameworks rather than through force.


Contributions to the PCA


Nariman's role in the evolution and functioning of the PCA further illustrates his commitment to international legal mechanisms. His remarks at the Third PCA-India Conference, as documented by the Ministry of External Affairs, reflect his vision of the PCA as a vital institution for resolving international disputes through arbitration and mediation. Nariman championed the PCA's role in promoting peaceful dispute resolution, emphasizing its importance in a world increasingly characterized by complex international disputes. His advocacy for arbitration to ensure justice while maintaining international peace and security highlights his deep understanding of the nuances of international law and its potential to contribute to global stability.


Nariman's legal acumen was evident in his involvement in landmark cases before the PCA. One notable case detailed on Nariman's expertise in the Indus Waters Kishenganga arbitration versus Pakistan in 2010. In this dispute, Nariman's legal strategy and his understanding of international water-sharing agreements under the Indus Waters Treaty were critical in presenting India's case. His arguments showcased his ability to navigate complex international legal principles and to articulate India's stance effectively, ultimately contributing to a resolution that was seen as equitable by many observers.


Legacy and Impact


Fali Nariman's passing is a profound loss to the legal community and to all who advocate for justice, human rights, and the rule of law. His contributions to legal scholarship and his unwavering dedication to the principles of justice have left an indelible mark on the legal landscape. Through his writings, public engagements, and legal practice, Nariman exemplified the highest ideals of the legal profession, advocating tirelessly for a world governed by law, not force. His legacy will continue to inspire future generations of lawyers and human rights advocates, serving as a beacon of integrity, wisdom, and compassion in pursuing justice. As we reflect on his monumental contributions, it is clear that FaliNariman's life and work have not only shaped the contours of legal practice but have also contributed to the advancement of human rights and the promotion of peace. His voice, though now silent, will continue to echo through the corridors of justice, reminding us of the power of law to change the world for the better.

The author is grateful to Mr. Nariman for his kind letter whose copy is enclosed below.


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