Soli J. Sorabjee is an eminent jurist and constitutional expert. In a distinguished career spanning over five decades, he has been championing the cause of human rights, the rule of law, constitutional values and probity, integrity and rectitude in public life.
He is revered for his scholarly views in India and abroad. He appeared in many important cases in the Supreme Court and different High Courts, particularly relating to the freedom of expression, freedom of Press, the independence of the judiciary and judicial review and the protection of human rights.
Sorabjee is strongly committed to social justice and gender equality. In C.B. Muthamma's case, when the government forced women Indian Foreign Service officers to resign after marriage, Sorabjee, who appeared for the state, did not support the unjust case.
It is a celebration volume in honour of Sorabjee, who completed 80 years on March 9, 2010. The contributors are known for their professional excellence. R.N. Trivedi, its editor, is a former Additional Solicitor-General of India.
Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, former Supreme Court Judge, in his piece, describes Sorabjee as a "humanist protagonist advocate at 80". He makes a passionate plea to every judge to be a "human judge" - not the deterrent committed to the reformative theory or retributive theory of sentencing.
Justice J.S. Verma, former Chief Justice of India, writing about the freedom of expression, opines that in a pluralist country like ours, a "delicate balance" is needed to preserve the freedom of expression subject to the reasonable unity and integrity.
He throws light on media trial. According to him, the right to reputation and privacy has to be respected; the report of pending court proceedings must be fair and objective; opinions must not be mixed with facts; and the outcome should not be prejudiced nor prejudged by the media. In essence, he says that there should be no interference with a fair trial.
Justice R.C. Lahoti, former Chief Justice of India, writes about the right to privacy as a human right. He is of the view that privacy is still evolving from its "bidding stage". In view of the development of "fundamental rights jurisprudence", he quotes Mathew J's observation that "the right to privacy will necessarily have to go through a process of case-by-case development".
Justice N. Santosh Hegde, a former Supreme Court Judge and currently Karnataka's Lok Ayukta, says that if the beneficiaries, whose economic condition is below the poverty line, of various Central schemes, such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the Sarva Shikshya Abhiyan, the Mid-Day Meals Scheme etc. are deprived of such economic benefits year after year, it is per se a violation of human rights.
Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy, former Supreme Court Judge and Chairman, Press Council of India, while examining the proposed Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2006, objects to the concentration of all powers in the Central Government. Subordinate role for the Authority, created under the Act, is a violation of the Supreme Court order that the government should have no control over the broadcasting media and that a statutory public authority must regulate it. He calls for a thorough revision of the Bill.
Dr. Justice Arijit Pasayat, former Supreme Court Judge and currently the Chairman, Competition Appellate Tribunal, writes that the concept of social justice and human rights should be considered "conjointly". Social justice is based on the idea of a "just society" which gives individuals and groups fair treatment and a just share of the benefits of society.
According to him four "sacrosanct and basic pillars" of human rights are life, liberty, equality and dignity. He refers to the Supreme Court judgment in the consumer education case, which held that social justice is meaningful and livable with human dignity.
Goolam E. Vahanvati, the Attorney General for India, describes the right to life as the "most precious and cherished" one. "Few are blessed to be able to exercise this right to the maximum extent and in the fullest form", he says. Referring to Sorabjee's rich contributions to the nation, he says, "it is not just about going through life. It is about living life thoroughly."
Gopal Subramanium, the Solicitor General of India, writes that public interest litigations (PILs) have expanded the wide horizons of human rights in India. The Supreme Court and the High Courts' rulings have impacted a wide array of human rights. PILs have helped develop a "new jurisprudence of accountability" for the state for constitutional and legal violations adversely affecting the weaker sections. However, procedural innovations must be conceptualised with dexterity to prevent PIL misuse, he warns.
K.K. Venugopal, constitutional expert and senior advocate, Supreme Court, makes a forceful plea for infusing human values into the legal profession. He calls for a shift in emphasis from the affluent section to the disadvantaged lot so that the administration of justice can be geared up for remedying the violation of their rights.
Dr. Subhash C. Kashyap, constitutional expert, while dealing with some fresh approaches to human rights underlines the need for a "harmonisation" in which all the basic human rights are accorded their "rightful place" for the welfare of the community and of the individuals themselves members of the community.
In his piece, Rt Hon Sir Stephen Sedley, Lord Justice Court of Appeal UK, writes that human rights and the due process are like two sides of the coin without which there will be no rule of law. If elected government abuse power to make laws, what about democracy? It's a "one-way street", he says. It entitles the legislature and the executive to decide how their society is to function, but gives them no right to trample upon the rule of law-"safety net of human rights protected by an independent legal system".
Rt Hon Lady Justice Mary Arden Court of Appeal, UK, calls for effective people's participation in the decision-making process. The provision of information and participation by "objectors" will help improve the quality of decisions and deter the state from making arbitrary decisions of those taken on the basis of inadequate information.
The book will be of immense help not only to students and teachers of all disciplines, but also advocates, judge and all those who believe in human rights. It will be a valuable asset for all libraries and will significantly contribute to knowledge.