Rohinton Fali Nariman

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Rohinton Fali Nariman
Judge of the Supreme Court of India
In office
7 July 2014 – 12 August 2021
Nominated byRajendra Mal Lodha
Appointed byPranab Mukherjee
Solicitor General of India
In office
27 July 2011 – 4 February 2013
Appointed byPratibha Patil
Personal details
Born (1956-08-13) 13 August 1956 (age 67)[1]
Bombay, Bombay State,
(now Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
SpouseSanaya Nariman[2]
Alma materShri Ram College of Commerce (B.Com Hons.)
University of Delhi (LLB)
Harvard University (LLM)

Rohinton Fali Nariman (born 13 August 1956) is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India.[3] Before being elevated as a judge, he practised as a senior counsel at the Supreme Court. He was appointed the Solicitor General of India on 23 July 2011.[4] He also served as a member of the Bar Council of India.[5] He was designated as a Senior Counsel by Chief Justice Manepalli Narayana Rao Venkatachaliah in 1993 at the early age of 37.[4][6][7]

Early life and education[edit]

Nariman is the son of Fali Sam Nariman,[8] a distinguished Indian jurist. He received his early education in Mumbai, at the Cathedral and John Connon School.[9] He completed his undergraduate B.Com. degree from Shri Ram College of Commerce. He completed his Bachelor of Laws from Campus Law Centre of the Faculty of Law, University of Delhi, where he ranked 2nd in the batch. He then went to Harvard Law School for his Master of Laws degree in 1980–81 where he was taught by stalwarts like Laurence Tribe and Roberto Mangabeira Unger.[citation needed]


Nariman joined the Bar as an advocate in 1979.[10] Times of India placed him among top ten lawyers of his time.[11] After his year at Harvard, he practised maritime law in New York at Haight, Gardner, Poor & Havens for a year.[2][12]

He was designated as a senior advocate at the Supreme Court of India from 15 December 1993 at the young age of 37.[13] While appointing him Chief Justice Manepalli Narayana Rao Venkatachaliah amended the rules as Nariman was of 37 years old and the minimum age for being made a senior in the Supreme Court was 45.[8]

He has been practising law for the last 30 years and has more than 500 reported Supreme Court judgments to his credit.[citation needed] He is an expert in Comparative Constitutional Law and Civil Law. He has argued numerous cases, including the constitutional bench judgments of P.A. Inamdar v. State of Maharashtra[14] and State of Punjab v. Devans Modern Breweries Ltd.[15]

In a case he argued, Enercon (India) Ltd. v. Enercon GMBH, Civil Appeal No. 2086 of 2014, Nariman has clarified the arbitration law on the seat/venue dichotomy. Khoday Distilleries Ltd. v. Scotch Whisky Assn., (2008) 10 SCC 723 is a landmark case in trademark law wherein the arguments of Nariman that the class of buyer may be relevant to the determination of a passing off action and it is not always the test of the prudent man which would apply was accepted.

He has argued the cases for theatre artist Vijay Tendulkar and the controversy-marred play Sakharam Binder. He claims that these two cases have been the turning points of his life.[11] He has handled the high-profile case of gas sharing between the Reliance Industries Limited (led by Mukesh Ambani) and Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (which is led by Anil Ambani).[7][16]

He has set up the Supreme Court Lawyers Welfare Trust which works for the welfare of lawyers and encourages young talent.[11][17]

Solicitor General[edit]

Nariman was of 55 years old when he was appointed the Solicitor General of India.[8]


After being at the post of Solicitor General of India for eighteen months, Nariman resigned on 4 February 2013. The reason for this is not known though it was said that he shared a poor rapport with the Law Minister Ashwani Kumar[18][19]

Supreme Court of India[edit]

Nariman was elevated as a judge of the Supreme Court on 7 July 2014. He was the fifth Supreme Court judge to be elevated directly from the Bar. He reached the retirement age of 65 on 12 August 2021.[20]


In November 2016, Nariman's book on the Zoroastrian religion, The Inner Fire, was released. The book is an analysis of the Gathas.[21]

Notable judgements[edit]

Freedom of speech[edit]

Nariman and Jasti Chelameswar formed the two judge bench of the Supreme Court of India which struck down a controversial law which gave Indian police the power to arrest anyone accused of posting emails or other electronic messages which "causes annoyance or inconvenience". The judges held Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, which made such offenses punishable up to three years imprisonment, to be unconstitutional. The judgement was authored by Nariman.[22][23][24][25][26] According to Nariman and Chelameswar, several terms in the law they were striking down were "open-ended, undefined and vague" which made them nebulous in nature. According to the judges: "What may be offensive to one may not be offensive to another. What may cause annoyance or inconvenience to one may not cause annoyance or inconvenience to another."[26]

In their judgement, the judges clarified that a distinction needs to be made between discussion, advocacy, and incitement. Any discussion, or advocacy of even an unpopular cause cannot be restricted, and it is only when such discussion or advocacy reaches the level of incitement whereby it causes public disorder or affects the security of the state can it be curbed.[24][25][26]

The judgement has been welcomed for defending the Indian Constitution's ideals of tolerance and the constitutional provisions of free speech.[27][28] It has been pointed out that the controversial law struck down by Nariman and Chelameswar had gained notoriety after many people in India started getting arrested for seemingly innocuous reasons on the ground that they had violated the now scrapped law.[25][27][28][29]

Triple Talaq[edit]

In a landmark judgement, a five-judge bench struck down instantaneous triple talaq by 3–2 majority and termed it void, illegal and unconstitutional. While Justice Kurian Joseph, Justice Nariman and Justice U. U. Lalit struck down the practice; Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer asked parliament to make a law in this regard.[30] Justice Nariman's judgement was against the practice of Triple Talaq where he stated "Triple Talaq is a disapproved form of divorce. Even the Hanafi law says triple talaq is sinful. 1937 Act recognizes triple talaq and therefore does not violate Article 13. It is not possible for the court to fold his hands when petitioners come to court.[31] Practice of triple talaq is bad and can be tested as legislation.[31]"


Justice Nariman, along with Justice DY Chandrachud, delivered a dissent in Kantaru Rajeevaru v. Indian Young Lawyers Association.[32] He held that the decision of five judges in the Sabarimala case which held that women of the ages of ten and fifty shall not be denied entry to the Sabarimala temple is not a fit case for the exercise of review jurisdiction as the judgment does not suffer from an error apparent on the face of record. The dissent observed that the executive is under a constitutional obligation to implement the decisions of the Supreme Court even if they were not parties before them.[33][34] Justice Nariman observed:

Bona fide criticism of a judgment, albeit of the highest court of the land, is certainly permissible, but thwarting, or encouraging persons to thwart, the directions or orders of the highest court cannot be countenanced in our Constitutional scheme of things.


  1. ^ Press Bureau of India : Shri Rohinton Fali Nariman Appointed as Solicitor General of India Last Retrieved on 4 February 2013.
  2. ^ a b The BPP Review (17 December 2011) : Solicitor General feted Last Retrieved on 4 February 2011.
  3. ^ "Justice Nariman bids adieu to SC bench after enriching court's docket with key verdicts". The Economic Times. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  4. ^ a b, Rohinton Nariman appointed Solicitor-General
  5. ^ "Office Bearers of Bar Council of India « The Bar Council of India".
  6. ^ "Rohinton F. Nariman – Personal Website". Archived from the original on 22 March 2014. Retrieved 30 August 2014.
  7. ^ a b "Rohinton Nariman is new Solicitor General of India".
  8. ^ a b c Rohinton Nariman To Be Appointed Solicitor General of India.
  9. ^ The BPP Review (17 December 2011) : Solicitor General feted,
  10. ^ Legal Era – Rohinton Nariman To Be New Solicitor General Last Retrieved on 4 February 2013.
  11. ^ a b c India's top 10 lawyers – Times of India Last retrieved on 4 February 2013.
  12. ^ "Home".
  13. ^ "Home | SUPREME COURT OF INDIA".
  14. ^ (2005) 6 SCC 537.
  15. ^ (2004) 11 SCC 26.
  16. ^ "Rohinton Nariman appointed Solicitor General". 28 July 2011.
  17. ^ Supreme Court Lawyers Welfare Trust encourages young talent; Introduces 2 annual fellowships – Bar and Bench Last Retrieved on 4 February 2013.
  18. ^ NDTV: Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman quits after 18 months in office Last retrieved on 4 February 2013.
  19. ^ Times of India – Solicitor General RF Nariman resigns Last retrieved on 4 February 2013.
  20. ^ "Justices Arun Mishra, Adarsh Goel and lawyer Rohinton Nariman appointed Supreme Court judges". Economic Times. PTI. 26 June 2014. Retrieved 30 August 2014.
  21. ^ "Religion has claimed more lives than politics, says CJI". The Hindu. 21 November 2016. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  22. ^ "Section 66A: India court strikes down 'Facebook' arrest law". BBC. 24 March 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  23. ^ "India supreme court strikes down internet censorship law". The Guardian. 24 March 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  24. ^ a b "A blow for free speech". The Hoot. 25 March 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  25. ^ a b c "Supreme Court upholds free speech on internet, scraps 'unconstitutional' Section 66A of IT Act". Hindustan Times. 25 March 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  26. ^ a b c "SC strikes down 'draconian' Section 66A". The Hindu. 24 March 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  27. ^ a b "The judgment that silenced Section 66A". The Hindu. 26 March 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  28. ^ a b "Our Politicians Loved Section 66(A)". NDTV. 24 March 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  29. ^ "Stats from 2014 reveal horror of scrapped section 66A of IT Act". Hindustan Times. 20 August 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  30. ^ Desk, India com News (22 August 2017). "Triple Talaq Verdict Not Unanimous, Implementation Would Be a Herculean Task: Owaisi". India News, Breaking News |
  31. ^ a b "Kapil Sibal In Court Opposed Ending Triple Talaq. His Reaction To The Ban".
  32. ^ "Raajevaru Judgment" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 September 2020.
  33. ^ "Govt Must Read 'Extremely Important' Dissent Order in Sabarimala Verdict: Justice Nariman". News18. 15 November 2019. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  34. ^ Scroll Staff (15 November 2019). "'Read dissenting view in Sabarimala verdict, our orders not to be played with': SC judge to Centre". Retrieved 22 April 2020.