Soli Sorabjee
Sorabjee in 2011
Sorabjee in 2011
7th Attorney General of India
In office
7 April 1998 – 4 June 2004
Preceded byAshok Desai
Succeeded byMilon K. Banerji
In office
9 December 1989 – 2 December 1990
Preceded byK. Parasaran
Succeeded byG. Ramaswamy
Personal details
Born(1930-03-09)9 March 1930
Bombay, Bombay Presidency, British India (now Mumbai, Maharashtra, India)
Died30 April 2021(2021-04-30) (aged 91)
Delhi, India

Soli Jehangir Sorabjee, AM (9 March 1930 – 30 April 2021) was an Indian jurist who served as Attorney-General for India from 1989 to 1990, and again from 1998 to 2004. In 2002, he received the Padma Vibhushan for his defence of the freedom of expression and the protection of human rights.[1][2] He is the only person to have held the office of Attorney General of India for two terms.

Early life

Soli Jehangir Sorabjee was born on 9 March 1930 in Bombay to a Bahai family.[3][4] He studied at Bharda New High School, Mumbai and St. Xavier's College, Mumbai and Government Law College, Mumbai, and was admitted to the bar in 1953.[5] At Government Law College, he was awarded the Kinloch Forbes Gold Medal in Roman Law and Jurisprudence (1952).[6]


In 1971, Sorabjee was designated a senior advocate of the Bombay High Court. He served as Solicitor-General of India from 1977 to 1980. He was appointed Attorney-General for India on 9 December 1989 up to 2 December 1990, and then again on 7 April 1998, a post he held until 2004.[2]

In March 2002, Soli Sorabjee received the Padma Vibhushan for his defence of the freedom of expression and the protection of human rights.[7] During The Emergency (1975-1977), Sorabjee provided legal services to political prisoners.[3] He later worked on the Citizen's Justice Committee which represented the 1984 anti-Sikh riots victims pro bono.[8]

In March 2006 he was appointed an honorary member of the Order of Australia (AM), "for service to Australia-India bilateral legal relations".[9]

Sorabjee was involved in several precedent-setting cases concerning the interpretation of the Constitution of India. Sorabjee and Fali Nariman assisted the petitioner's counsel in Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala, which restricted Parliament from altering the "basic structure" of the Constitution. As Solicitor-General, he was a member of the government's legal delegation in Maneka Gandhi v Union of India, which held that Article 21 of the Constitution promulgated the right of personal liberty.[10] He was also involved in S. R. Bommai v. Union of India, which imposed restrictions on President's rule,[11] and I.R. Coelho v. State of Tamil Nadu, which held that laws passed under the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution are not exempt from judicial review.[12] He appeared in the case of B.P. Singhal v. Union of India, in which the Supreme Court held that state governors could not be dismissed without due cause.[13] He aided the petitioner in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, which targeted restrictions on online speech in the Information Technology Act, 2000.[11]


He was the chairman of Transparency International and Convenor of the Minority Rights Group. He served as Special Rapporteur to Nigeria for the United Nations Human Rights Commission in 1997, and as a member of the United Nations Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities from 1998 onwards. Sorabjee served as member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague from 2000 to 2006.[14]

Soli J. Sorabjee was vice-president of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association and a member of the Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament Law of the International Law Association.[14]

Personal life

Sorabjee was a close friend and colleague of Nanabhoy Palkhivala. Sorabjee's daughter, Zia Mody, is also a lawyer and partner at AZB & Partners.[14] Zia Mody is the author of the book 10 Judgements that Changed India.[15] Sorabjee is also survived by three sons—Jehangir, a doctor, Hormazd Sorabjee, editor of the Autocar India magazine and Jamshed.[16]—and seven grandchildren named Niki, Ardeshir, Raian, Maya, Anjali, Aarti, and Aditi.[17]

Sorabjee was the first president of the Jazz India Association. He played the clarinet; his favourite artists included Benny Goodman and Dizzy Gillespie.[3]

He died of COVID-19, on 30 April 2021 in a private hospital in Delhi where he was undergoing treatment.[16]



Essays and monographs


He also wrote columns for the Indian Express.[18]



  1. ^ "Former attorney general Soli Sorabjee dies of Covid-19". The Times of India. 30 April 2021. Retrieved 30 April 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Hall of Fame - Top 50" (PDF). J. Sagar Associates. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 December 2012. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  3. ^ a b c Yasir, Sameer (6 May 2021). "Soli Sorabjee, Eminent Indian Jurist and Jazz Lover, Dies at 91". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 7 May 2021.
  4. ^ Tripathi, Ashish (30 April 2021). "Former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee passes away after contracting Covid-19". Deccan Herald. Retrieved 30 April 2021.
  5. ^ Rajagopal, Krishnadas (30 April 2021). "Former Attorney General of India Soli Sorabjee passes away". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 30 April 2021.
  6. ^ a b "Soli Jehangeer Sorabjee". The Times Of India Group. 5 January 2003.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ "Padma Vibhushan for Rangarajan, Soli Sorabjee". The Hindu. 26 January 2002. Archived from the original on 19 July 2009. Retrieved 26 January 2002.
  8. ^ "25 Years after Indira Gandhi The lawyers in the Indira Gandhi Murder Trial and the 1984 Riots". 2 November 2009. Bar and Bench. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  9. ^ "Award Extract".
  10. ^ Vyas, Maulik. "Once you choose law as a profession, you don't retire till you die: Soli Sorabjee". The Economic Times. Retrieved 30 April 2021.
  11. ^ a b "Legal Luminary Soli Sorabjee Passes Away Due to COVID-19". The Wire. Retrieved 30 April 2021.
  12. ^ "Former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee dies of Covid". The Tribune. Retrieved 30 April 2021.
  13. ^ Chhibber, Maneesh; Anand, Utkarsh (18 June 2014). "In 2010, SC ruled govt change not a ground to remove Governors". The Indian Express. Retrieved 30 April 2021.
  14. ^ a b c "In Conversation with Soli Sorabjee". Legal Era. Archived from the original on 22 May 2013. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  15. ^ "It's a tight balance for the Supreme Court, says Zia Mody". 31 August 2013. Retrieved 30 April 2021.
  16. ^ a b "Soli Sorabjee, Former Attorney General, Dies Of COVID-19". NDTV. Retrieved 30 April 2021.
  17. ^ Saxena, Aditi (6 November 2014). "Law bores me, says Zia Mody's daughter Anjali". The Economic Times. Retrieved 30 April 2021.
  18. ^ "Soli J. Sorabjee". The Indian Express. 17 January 2019. Retrieved 1 May 2021.
  19. ^ "Former attorney general, Padma Vibhushan awardee Soli Sorabjee dies during treatment for COVID-19". Firstpost. 30 April 2021. Retrieved 30 April 2021.
  20. ^ "Justice Hegde Award for Soli Sorabjee". The Hindu. 27 April 2006. Retrieved 25 April 2015.