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--------------- Print Magazine --------------
 
  May 2016
 
  April 2016
 
 
 
 
DISTINGUISHED LAWYER
JUSTICE TENDOLKAR (1958)

Mr. H. M. Seervai, the then Advocate General, said:
       My Lords,
      On behalf of the Bar I desire to associate myself with the deeply moving words which have fallen from my Lord the Chief Justice.

      Yesterday, with every mark of sorrow and regard, his friends from every walk of life paid their last respects to Mr. Justice Tendolkar and tributes were paid to his memory. But it seems to me that those tributes would be incomplete without a tribute from the Bar which he loved so well and served so devotedly and of which he was a shining ornament.

I find it hard to speak on an occasion like this, for memories come crowding upon me. We worked together at the Bar for fourteen years; we met each other almost every day; and we worked with keen interest for the Bar Association- sometimes on the same side, sometimes against one another. I soon realized that he was a resolute fighter for causes which were dear to him. But he bore no resentment and no enmity; on the contrary, a fair opponent commanded his permanent regard and respect.

In 1946 he seemed set for a distinguished career at the Bar. But in that year he answered what he believed was a call of duty, at great personal sacrifice to himself, and he accepted the office of a Judge. I venture to think that, had he not answered that call, today we would be mourning the loss of a great Advocate General.

I remember the scene when he assumed office as a Judge. His father was present in Court-a venerable figure-and it must have gladdened his heart to hear his son proclaim in ringing tones that one thing to which he would dedicate himself as a Judge was Justice. Never, I venture to think, has a pledge given to the Bar been more completely redeemed.

He came to his office with a first equipment for a Judge-a brilliant academic career, a clear head, gifted speech, training in the chamber of Sir Jamshedji Kanga, which has been the nursery of great Judges and distinguished lawyers, and last but not the least, a varied and rapidly rising practice. Very soon we felt that a first class Judge had been given to us. His standards were exacting, but they enabled him to draw out the best that was in the members of the Bar. He was a strong Judge with welldeserved confidence in his own powers, and with such a Judge the Junior Bar comes with its own. No argument was rejected in his Court because it was urged by the voice of youth; on the contrary, his Court saw the flowering of capable young men into advocates in busy practice.

He would not wished to be described as an ideal Judge, for that requires the control of emotion at all times and there were times when he neither desired not tried to control his emotion. But for all that, he was a great Judge in the Court of first instance and a still greater Judge in the Court of Appeal to which he belonged as of right. I may be permitted to say here, what I have said and felt since 1952, that it has seemed strange to me that powers such as his were not secured for the Supreme Court of India.

But, my Lords, the Bench and the Bar exist for the public and to that public he rendered memorable service. Countless instances can be given, but two of them stand out vividly in my memory. When overzealous subordinates of the Requisition Department took to throwing out citizens from their homes in the dead of night, he struck at that wickedness with all his might in words which those who heard them have never forgotten. He said, "I should have thought that the dark hours of the night are reserved for dark deeds and not the execution of lawful orders." As a result of his judgment, the whole system was changed and the doors of this Court were effectively kept open for every citizen. The other judgment was in a matter which came before him last year on an ex-parte application by a corporation to enable it to contribute moneys to the funds of a political party. It was an exparte application, but he insisted on counsel arguing it before him. He directed their research into American cases and in measured language he drew the attention of Government to the grave danger of political corruption if the aggregated wealth of corporations was used to purchase political power.

My Lords, in January of this year a change came over his bright and almost boyish face. In the reference which was made to the memory of Mr. Justice Shah he came to the stage with difficulty and stood throughout in obvious pain. Alarming news of his health reached members of the Bar, but he still came to Court. At last I felt that I should convey to him the unanimous desire of the Bar that he should immediately apply for as long as leave as was necessary to restore his health. In his reply he said that he was deeply touched and moved by the regard of the Bar, for him, that after my message he had decided immediately to apply for leave, but that he had an unfinished case which he had to finish on the 20th of January and after that he would go on leave. Though he had been unable to retain food or drink for five days, he still came to Court and finished the case, and with that last gallant gesture of devotion to duty he went home and now he has gone to his rest. My Lords, we mourn a great Judge, and a dear friend whose opinion we valued, and for long his bright and masterful personality and familiar voice will linger in the Court which he made peculiarly his own.

I should like to say a few words to his bereaved family. Words of comfort and words of praise are alike unavailing at a time like this, but it may soothe their sorrow a little to know that those amongst whom his work has been done are able to say of him on his death:-

         And sure, the Eternal Master found              
         His shining talents well employed.

Courtesy: The Seervai Legacy by Feroza Seervai

 
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