May 18, 2022

Book Review: Before Memory Fades…

This chronicle of a prominent legal person of the Indian legal arena is the best read for the lawyers and law students if they really want to know the best about legal profession from one of the best person of Indian legal history.

Conversation with the finest man..

Someone said that reading a book is like talking with the finest men of the world. Someone also said that reading the story of great people teach you to not commit those mistakes which were committed by them. I witnessed withboth these sayings while reading the autobiography ‘Before memory fades…’.

This book which is the autobiography of ex-additional solicitor general, ex- parliamentarian, and ‘eminent’ lawyer of India, Fali. S. Nariman, contain 18 chapters and published by ‘Hay Publication’.

The autobiography tells the story of author from his childhood when his family was in Rangoon, and moving to Mumbai, his education in Dehradun, and his good and bad experience, in his early legal career in the chambers of Jamshedji kanga, working as additional solicitor general of India in the Indira period, and his resignation due to emergency and his private practice and appearance in landmark cases of Indian legal history, his another engagement at international level, and at last his term as a Rajyasabha MP.  

Meanwhile, author also shared his advice to be a good lawyer and talked about the eminent Judges of supreme court, before whom he appeared during his practice.

By making his legal career the base, author talked about the ups and downs of the country during the emergency, the infamous tussle of Supreme court and government, the origin of landmark cases of the supreme court like golaknath, keshavanand bharti, and later the Bhopal gas case and anthology of judges transfer case, in which author also appeared.

Book is written in conversational tone. It is like talking to someone about his life. Author also intended to make it in conversational as he mentioned in the beginning of the book. Actually, this conversational tone becomes great for the maintenance of flow in the book. Otherwise, storehouse of information stuck people in the middle of the book.

fali nariman
A sketch of Fali. Nariman by Advocate Vinod Bobde

Author did not pretend to be too serious while narrating his life, he used humour effect whenever it is required. Here, it is quite mention-worthy the conservation between Lord lane, lord chief justice of England and wales and author, while talking about why Indian government abolished titles in India, lord lane said,

Mr. Nariman I have been troubled for sometimes now and I want to ask you whether you would agree with me that in your constitution you made a great mistake by abolishing titles.’

And when author asked the reason of asking such question.

‘he sweetly said with a twinkle in his eyes, ‘Oh, titles are wonderful. The ladies simple loves it.’

While talking about the long argument of advocate Tarporewalla, author said that in a case, due to Tarporewalla’s long arguments, judge could only mention following-

“(Date)- 11:00 a.m.- Mr Taraporewalla begins.

2:45 p.m.- Mr Taraporewalla continues.

(Next day)- 11:00 a.m.- Mr Taraporewalla goes on- Oh God.

4:00 p.m.- Mr Taraporwalla concludes- Thank God.”                              

In the Bhopal gas case, author appeared as a counsel from the side of union carbide corporation (UCC), Accepting of this appearance was criticized by many people. Author took the opportunity in his autobiography to defend himself regarding the appearance in this case. He used the established principle of fair trial that every person has a right to fair trial, and to speak his side. In his defence, author writes that,

This sounds heroic, but the suggestion is impractical and fraught with grave consequences: it puts an almost impossible burden on the lawyer, of pre-judging guilt; and (more important) it precludes the person charged with infringing the human rights of another the right to be defended by ‘lawyer of his choice’- in my country, a guaranteed constitutional rights’

He mentioned his letters and articles which were published in the journals at that time but without mentioning the summary of these letters and articles, author printed full letters and articles in the book, this somewhat stops the flow of the book. 

Again, author printed full speeches which he delivered and the provisions of statutes which they introduced in the parliament as a nominated MP. However, summary of those speeches and statutes would be enough to readers.

Back page of the book mention that this book is must for both members of the legal profession and the lay reader. But, I don’t think this book is a best recommendation for the people other than legal background, if they don’t have basic knowledge of law and legal history.

However, if the reader is that law student who did not read constitution yet then also s/he will not get it completely.

This book has same promotional effect as another books like ‘ikigai’, ‘rich dad poor dad’, ‘alchemist’, have. The more social media and book stores promotes it as a famous book and the more people purchase these under the impression of popular and the more it becomes famous and this circle continues.

Due to its popularity among legal people especially among law students, it’s got the same status of autobiography in the legal field as Gandhi’s ‘My experiments with truth’ and A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s ‘Wings of Fire’ in general field.

In the end, I would recommend that this chronicle of a prominent legal person of the Indian legal arena is the best read for the lawyers and law students if they really want to know the best about legal profession from one of the best person of Indian legal history. And, in author’s own words,

“Life is full of surprise. Whether you do or do not believe in destiny or in providence or in God be sure that-out of the blue- some stranger, some unknown person, at one time or another will reach out and give you a helping hand as you journey along on the roads of life.

This article is written by Arshi hayat Gnagohi. She is a lawyer, blogger at ababeelfolks and writes on laws, culture, books, cinema, food and literature.

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