Laxmi Mall Singhvi

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Laxmi Mall Singhvi
Dr. L.M. Singhvi (1931-2007).jpg
Member of Lok Sabha
In office
Constituency Jodhpur
Member of Rajya Sabha
In office
Personal details
Born (1931-11-09)9 November 1931
Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India
Died 6 October 2007(2007-10-06) (aged 75)
New Delhi, India.
Political party Bharatiya Janata Party
Occupation jurist, writer, diplomat
Religion Jainism

L. M. Singhvi (9 November 1931 – 6 October 2007) was an Indian jurist, parliamentarian, scholar, writer and diplomat. He was, after V. K. Krishna Menon, the second-longest-serving High Commissioner for India in the United Kingdom (1991–97)[1] He was conferred Padma Bhushan in 1998.[2]


Singhvi was born in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India, into a Marwari Jain family. He had two brothers, Prasanna Mall Singhvi and Gulab Mall Singhvi, and two sisters, Pushpa Sett and Chandra Bhandari.[3] Singhvi was educated in Jodhpur, taking bachelor's degrees first in Arts and then in Law.

Legal career[edit]

After taking a degree in law, Singhvi began his legal practice at the Jodhpur trial and sessions courts. He practiced as an advocate for several years before contesting and winning the election to Parliament from the Jodhpur (Lok Sabha constituency) in 1962. During his five-year term as MP, his appearances in court were necessarily limited by the demands of work in parliament and in his constituency, and his law practice suffered. However, Singhvi served only a single term in the Lok Sabha and lost the elections of 1967. He then returned to his law practice full-time, but he abandoned his practice in the district court and began practicing at the Rajasthan High Court and the Supreme Court of India. His practice now flourished and he was named Advocate General of State of Rajasthan for the period 1972–77. He was later designated a Senior Advocate in the Supreme Court of India.

Political career[edit]

During the decade of the 1950s, the Jawaharlal Nehru government vigorously pushed an agenda of "social modernization" which amounted to dismissing the customs and traditions of India as backward and despicable, and enacting laws based on "modern values," "progressive outlook" and "scientific temper" which enshrined Western systems of marriage, divorce, inheritance and human relationships as the law which the courts of India would uphold. These vigorous efforts caused great disquiet among those educated sections of society who realized what was going on. However, the absence of an organized opposition party was an insuperable impediment to organized political resistance to this agenda. The Congress Party had the reputation and glamour of having secured the independence of India from Britain, and there was essentially no second political party in the electoral firmament.

Singhvi was drawn to politics as an opponent of this radical social agenda championed by Jawaharlal Nehru. Most of the radical legislation was passed during the term of the second Lok Sabha (1957–62). When elections for the third Lok Sabha were held in 1962, Sanghvi stood for election as an independent candidate from his hometown, Jodhpur. Based on the goodwill his family enjoyed in Jodhpur, and on further goodwill and contacts created through his law practice, he won the election by a narrow margin and was elected to Parliament from the Jodhpur constituency. As MP, he proposed the creation of an independent, statutory vigilance body with investigative powers, tasked with unearthing corruption in government. This proposal, which was based on his study of the role of the Ombudsman in Scandinavian countries. Singhvi served as a member of the Lok Sabha for five years, but lost the election of 1967 and did not return to Parliament until thirty-one years later.

In 1997, after he returned to India following a long tenure as High Commissioner to the UK, Singhvi formally joined the Bharatiya Janata Party. He was elected the following year to the Rajya Sabha for a term of six years (1998–2004).[4] As MP, he served as Chairman of High Level Committee on Indian Diaspora. He was instrumental in implementing the Vajpayee government's outreach to the Indian diaspora. It was he who conceptualised the idea of holding 'Pravasi Bharatiya Divas' to promote interaction of NRIs with the Indian government and industry.[5]

Diplomatic assignment[edit]

In 1991, Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao appointed Singhvi High Commissioner to the Court of St. James. It is a measure of his reputation and professionalism that he remained in that office till 1997, undisturbed during the brief tenures of the next two Prime Ministers. This made him, after VK Krishna Menon, the second longest-serving High Commissioner for India in the United Kingdom (1991–97), a record the more remarkable for having overlapped with the terms of four Indian Prime Ministers.

In 1993, during his term as High Commissioner, Singhvi spearheaded the Indian delegation to the United Nations conference on Human Rights in Vienna. The same year, he was invited by the University of Cambridge to deliver the Rede Lecture, the topic being his own book, 'A Tale of Three Cities.'[6]

He was also a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague,[6]

Literary career[edit]

Singhvi wrote several books in both English and Hindi. These include A Tale of three cities, Jain Temples and Bharat aur Hamara Samay ("India and our times"). As a writer, he had a substantial output, and his numerous books are written in a style that can best be termed simple. They are a mix of general information on specific topics ("Jain temples") and of his views on various issues in books with a very general scope ("India and our times"). Singhvi had a lifelong interest in Jain history and culture, and was quite knowledgeable on the subject, especially with regard to the art and architecture of Jain temples. He served as president of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts.

Awards and recognition[edit]

In 1993, Dr Singhvi was awarded the Padma Bhushan by Govt. of India, and an honorary degree of LLD by the University of Buckingham.[7]

The Supreme Court of India held the 'First Dr. L.M. Singhvi memorial lecture on 'Law, Technology and Society: Its dynamics’ on 17 January 2009, delivered by Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Former President of India.[8]

Using a bequest by the Trustees of the British Indian Golden Jubilee Banquet Fund, "Dr L M Singhvi Visiting Fellowship" is given out by University of Wales and 'Centre of South Asian Studies', University of Cambridge, for visiting student and scholars of Indian nationality.[9][10]

The School of Constitutional Law at the National Law University, Jodhpur has been named after Dr. L.M Singhvi.

Personal life[edit]

As per Indian custom, Singhvi was married at a very young age to Kamla Baid, a lady of his own community, in a match arranged by parents. His wife is a writer whose short stories have been serialized in several Hindi-language magazines. The couple have two children and four grandchildren.

Their only son, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, is a leading if controversial lawyer, who chose to join the Congress party to which his father was opposed all his life. Presently (2014) a spokesman of that party, Abhishek was involved in a sex scandal after he was filmed having oral sex within the precincts of the Supreme court of India, with a woman who is not his wife. He is presently answering charges of possessing unaccounted wealth to the tune of Rs. 350 crore (USD 60 million) and of evading tax on the same. Sanghvi's daughter, Abhilasha Singhvi Lalbhai, is engaged in social work as Managing Trustee of Manav Seva Sannidhi. Singhvi's grandchildren are Anubhav Singhvi and Avishkar Singhvi (sons of Abhishek Sanghvi) and Astha and Nishtha Lalbhai (daughters of Abhilasha Lalbhai).

Singhvi died on October 6, 2007, following a brief illness, in New Delhi, survived by his wife and both children.


Overall, since his political and social views were not consonant with those of the dominant Congress party, Singhvi's political career remained stunted during the prolonged era when the Nehru dynasty (Nehru, his daughter Indira and grandson Rajiv) held sway over politics in an essentially unipolar political dispensation. During those four long decades of political marginalization, he never wavered from his foundational beliefs, but developed a flourishing legal career and a reputation for unimpeachable integrity. He lived to see the end of that era; his career ended on a high note when he was made a Rajya Sabha MP by a government which represented his own beliefs.


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