RAFIQUE A DADA
President, Bombay Bar Association
Mrs Bhabha, members of Kharshedji Bhabha’s family, Mr Nariman, Mr Chagla, Mr Rohit Kapadia, vice-president of the Association, Mr Avinash Rana, Mr Patel, ladies and gentlemen,
We heard the sad news of the passing away of Mr KH Bhabha. In the passing away of Kharshedji Bhabha, this Association has lost one of its most illustrious, one of its most senior and most importantly, one of its most beloved members. Kharshedji Bhabha, as he was popularly called, practised in these Courts for almost 60 years. He left his imprint on virtually every branch of the law, be it civil, be it constitutional, be it the law of taxation. Mr Bhabha, as we all know, came from the Chamber of the great Sir Jamsetjee Kanga, who was one of the legends of this Bar. And like his illustrious senior, he trained many a junior, some of whom are our most senior and illustrious advocates practising in this Court and in the Supreme Court of India.
Conferences with Mr Bhabha, as many of the juniors will tell you, were quite remarkable.
I remember hearing Mr Bhabha argue in Court when I was a junior. I remember many a great legal battle in which he figured, I remember specially the Central Court which saw a lot of action somewhere in ’65-’66 when the Currimbhoy Ebrahim Baronetcy case was being argued. Virtually every leading advocate of the time appeared in the Court; Mr Bhabha was one of them. What we admired, as juniors then, was that he sat through the entire matter for nearly 40 working days and painstakingly worked out every point which was urged against him. I had the distinction a little later to appear with him in several matters, especially matters before Justice Madon and Justice Kania, who heard references under the Sales Tax Act, particularly the Central Sales Tax Act. I remember a very important matter under the Central Sales Tax Act, where he was to do the leading arguments; we spent about 2 weeks in conferences with him. Conferences with Mr Bhabha, as many of the juniors will tell you, were quite remarkable. There was nothing that you could tell him which he didn’t know, there was no part of the brief which he hadn’t read and there was probably no authority which he hadn’t studied. He was very painstaking, his research was thorough and there was little one could tell him as a junior. But he studied the law, he studied the act, he studied every amendment and he always told me that Justice Madon has a great expertise in this subject and we must be prepared for the worst. So he was very prepared, he was one of our most formidable advocates.
Latterly in life, he didn’t accept much work in Court but he always came to the Bar Library. He loved the Bar Library, he loved to talk to the juniors, he loved to crack jokes. He sat in the reference section, he talked to the junior-most advocates of the Bar, many of whom didn’t know that they were talking to the great Kharshedji Bhabha, whose name appeared in so many law reports! But such was his humility, such was his grace. After every vacation, he came back refreshed and told us about the holidays he had, about the time which he had spent with his children. Alas, at the end of this vacation he didn’t come back. So, we all have great memories of Mr Bhabha, the humble man, the graceful man, the man who cracked jokes with many of our junior advocates, who loved the Bar, who loved the Bar Library. On behalf of the Bombay Bar Association, I extend my condolences to Mrs Bhabha, to members of the Bhabha family. Let’s pray to God that the almighty God who has taken away Mr Kharshedji Bhabha gives you the strength and fortitude to bear this loss.
I would now request Mr Fali Nariman, who has come here this evening, to say a few words.
FALI S NARIMAN
Mr President, my dear friends and colleagues;
My being here this evening is purely fortuitous and, I like to believe, God’s will. Let me explain. Early this morning, my wife and I landed in Bombay; she had to be hospitalised. When Fredie DeVitre visited us early this morning he mentioned there was going to be a meeting, and asked if I’d like to speak; I said: like to speak? I am the only person qualified to speak!
I had the privilege of being Kharshedji Bhabha’s first junior in the old Chambers, which most of you have not seen. They were a remarkable set of Chambers at the other end of the High Court building on the ground floor. Next to us was Somji, next to that was Sorab Vimadalal and then the Bhabha Chambers. It was so small that Justice Coyaji once told us “I don’t know how you fellows don’t fall and break your necks”, because it was the most prosperous Chamber in the city and would be full of clients all the time, all the time, all the time! For me, the only happy thing in this otherwise sad event this evening, is that I am here to participate in it. I am Kharshedji’s oldest junior as I told you, having joined him way back in 1953 when Kharshedji had a lion’s share of briefs at the Bar; literally, a lion’s share of briefs at the Bar. And I remained his junior even after I got work on my own and until I left Bombay to practise at the Supreme Court in May 1972. Our son, Rohinton, was and always remained Kharshedji’s hottest favourite; even though he, too, after a brief stint, left Bombay to practise in Delhi. There is a special place in the hearts of the Nariman family for Kharshedji and Naju.
If I am a good lawyer, it is because I was so moulded, devilling with KH Bhabha. He was Jamsetjee Kanga’s favourite young junior in a Chamber of all talents; the people with the larger tables were Murzban Mistry, Rustom Kolah, my erstwhile senior for a couple of years, and then Homi Seervai, whom Bhabha always addressed as ‘Sergeant’ because he walked like the old Sergeants in the Courts of England, not the Sergeant in the army or the military or the police, but the old Law Sergeants in England. The small tables were with Jal Vimadalal, Nani Palkhiwala and Kharshedji Bhabha. A sprinkling of juniors who were there were Dwarkadas (Janak’s father), Jehangoo Khambatta, later Soli Sorabjee and a host of others. We were just asked to mill around, and make ourselves scarce if there were too many people. It was a very difficult Chamber to be in, but it was the finest Chamber that we all do remember with great affection.
Bhabha was the last of the Mohicans and all the Chamber-mates with tables, big and small, are all gone; and I think we, who do remember, are all the poorer for it. Kanga had a special affection for Kharshedji. His small table, where I used to squeeze in on half a chair, would be loaded with briefs and was bang opposite Sir Jamsetjee’s table. Sir Jamsetjee, with his legs up on the table, would suddenly ask a general question, (whoever wanted to, could answer!) “And where is Lord Bhabha today?” He always called him ‘Lord Bhabha’; Lord Bhabha would be in Court and would come in the evening. After 6:30, when it was time for fun and games, everyone including Naval Gamadia would be there and there would be talk and stories of old. The education that we all got, we young people, was something remarkable and something I will never forget. Then, the new Chambers: Chamber No. 1 in the High Court Annexe was the largest of the Chambers (I will tell you why it was the largest in a moment) and Bhabha very kindly gave me a table of my own and I prospered.
Ours was the slick part of Chamber No. 1, air-conditoned, with tables; and how we got the new Chambers is a story which all of you must know. Chief Justice Chagla, when he asked us to leave all the Chambers, all the advocates who had Chambers on the ground floor of the High Court building, he told us one day “I am afraid all of you will have to go; we need the High Court building for Judges, offices and so on”. There was a representation and Sir Jamsetjee was asked to head the group; I wasn’t part of it. All the seniors went to Chagla, who said “I’m very sorry gentlemen, this will have to be done and you will have to find something. I can give you a couple of months more, but from the beginning of June all of you will have to go”. Then Jamsetjee said in his stentorian voice, “then M’Lord, I will sit at home”. It was a shock to Chagla who said “What! Sir Jamsetjee you will sit at home?” “Well, I can only sit at home, where else can I sit?” Chagla, of course, had very personal regard, for very personal reasons, for Sir Jamsetjee and he then moved heaven and earth and this High Court Annexe building, which all of you have been seeing for the last so many years, was built only to house Sir Jamsetjee Kanga, not us, please, but Sir Jamsetjee Kanga, because of the great affection that Chagla had for Sir Jamsetjee! All of us are beholden to him, all the other Chambers, as well; Sir Nusserwanji’s, etc.; and this was all because of the graciousness of Chief Justice Chagla. And Kanga would sit outside our air-conditioned section of the Chamber and would come in with an “excuse me!” to light his cigarette, which would otherwise go out with the flowing wind in his part of the Chamber.
It was not law alone that I leant from Kharshedji but conviviality as well
It was not law alone that I leant from Kharshedji but conviviality as well. We were all a jolly lot of fellows, with Chamber parties hosted by dear Naju with good whiskey, good stories all flowing. Kharshedji was very fortunate in one way because he had two generations of juniors: the first-generation juniors and the second-generation juniors. Myself, Jehangoo and Soli were his first-generation juniors. They were not only Kharshedji’s favourites but they were also Naju’s favourites. To us all, then newly married with young children, she was the generous, elegant hostess; she took us under the Bhabha wing and we were all stamped ‘Bhabha’s boys’.
I have been singularly fortunate in being associated with Kharshedji in my formative years at the Bar. As you rightly said, Mr President, we don’t realise it because there are generations that keep coming and going at the Bar, it’s almost like a railway station in a way, when you look at it over the years! You never realise who has come and who has gone; but the people who have mattered can be counted on your fingertips and Bhabha was one of the people who mattered. I can assure you, and many of you may not know it since you have not seen him in his top form. In his top form he was almost unplayable, like his great senior, Sir Jamsetjee. He could present a case in the shortest possible time, he worked on it, as Rafique Dada rightly said, very assiduously; he knew all the answers, he knew the cases, etc. and he could put the point across in the briefest possible way. And that was my remembrance of the old days.
Today, for all of us that knew him, the sadness is the realisation of the fact that we will never meet or see him again. He perhaps may be grieving, that’s what I think, at not being able to meet us; but this only is because we see everything in the vain image of the living. But then we have no other measure to assess the state of those who have passed on. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the famous Columbian novelist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature many years ago, describes how he first hit upon the idea of writing a short story. “The first story idea came to me “, he writes, “in the early 1970’s as a result of an illuminating dream I had after living in Barcelona for 5 years. I dreamed I was attending my own funeral, walking with a group of friends, dressed in solemn mourning but in a festive mood. We all seemed happy to be together and I more than anyone else” - Garcia is describing his dream – “because of the wonderful opportunity that death afforded me to be with my friends from Latin America, my oldest and dearest friends, the ones I had not seen for so long. At the end of the service when they all began to disperse, I attempted to leave too but one of them made me see with a decisive finality that, as far as I was concerned, the party was over. ‘You are the only one who cannot go’ he said. Only then”, Garcia writes, “did I understand that dying means never being with friends again.”
That, perhaps, is the true sadness in Kharshedji leaving us. For him perhaps dying has meant never being with his friends again. We shall never know. But thank God we do know that his friends so fondly remember him and salute him on this occasion. That may perhaps make him smile, that charming smile and that mischievous chuckle, nonchalant mischievous chuckle, with a few expletives perhaps added, which his first and second generation juniors can all hear and see; but only in our mind’s eye! Of course, words are no solace when someone near and dear to you goes; and we can offer Naju and the family who are all here, not only our sympathy but the fact that although he has passed on, he has left some indelible imprints on many of us. Because it is truly said, I think, that when someone you have been close to dies, a part of you also dies with him or her. And so it is with some of us who were very closely associated with Kharshedji, with his seriousness, with his jokes, with his joviality; and we still remember him sitting in this corner with his group of friends, chatting and fooling around between 2 & 2:45, the lunch hour. And it is a matter of great regret, at least to me, that on the few occasions that I do come to Bombay, I will never see his face again.
Mr President, Rafique Dada, Naju Bhabha, members of the Bhabha family and my friends,
It’s with a feeling of great sorrow that I stand up here at this condolence meeting. Kharshedji’s demise is unquestionably an irreparable loss to the family but it is also a personal loss to me and all those who were fortunate enough to be in his Chamber. Kharshedji was like a coconut fruit; externally very hard but internally very soft and sometimes, very sweet. When I approached him to take me as his junior, he made it very clear: “You shall not sit in the Chamber, you will sit only in the library and read the briefs. You will not be able to attend any conferences in the Chamber”. I had no option so I accepted it. On the third day, in the evening at around 6.30 his peon Bhiwa (incidentally, Bhiwa thought that in the order of hierarchy he was next to Sir Jamsetjee Kanga!) came and said “Bhabha is calling you”, so I went there. He was holding a conference in respect of some matter for which I had prepared some notes. After the conference was over, the next day again at 6.30, I was called. There was no conference, but he said “the Court closes at 4.45 what are you doing upto 6.30? No point in chatting in the library!” I could not tell him that he had told me not to come to Chambers. He said “you come from 4.45!” So at 4.45 the next evening he asked me “where do you keep your jacket and gown?” Now in those days, you could keep it in the library on a hanger and nobody would flick them. So I kept them in the library; he said “No, no! Keep them in the Chambers!” So that’s how, within a week’s time, I was in his Chamber.
And what a Chamber it was! Today I can say that Kharshedji can take great pride and it must be a matter of great satisfaction to him that he has given the Bar some of the top-class lawyers. Starting with Fali Nariman, unquestionably and without any dispute the finest lawyer in the country today and internationally also, very much respected; and a member of Parliament. Then we have Soli Sorabjee, twice the Attorney General and easily one of the most outstanding constitutional lawyers. Then, Jehangoo Khambatta, who left the Chamber, the profession, but became the chairman of Glaxo. Then we have Obed Chinoy. I found him to be one of the most outstanding lawyers, very astute, and he knew the pulse of the Court, in which Court you couldn’t argue a particular point; I don’t think anybody had that Court craft. Then we have Iqbal Chagla, one of the leading lawyers of India and easily the finest lawyer in Bombay. So, this was the Chamber I joined.
When I joined, Kharshedji had a very large practice. He was a fixture in the Court on the Original Side. He was a fixture in the Appeal Court, he was very much in demand in company matters, excise, customs matters; and when Gold Control came, Gold Control matters and foreign exchange matters. In Evacuee Property matters, he was in demand all over India. One Shri Chajjuram, who was the Custodian General, was very fond of him; not because of any personal reasons but because Kharshedji was a very astute lawyer. He would put all the facts and law properly and fairly and was very hard working; so he liked him immensely. He was very much in demand all over India. Kharshedji was very, very hard working; and inspite of all my limitations, he fashioned me into a lawyer.
Now as everyone has pointed out, Kharshedji was a man without any false sense of ego or vanity; very modest, very human.
Now as everyone has pointed out, Kharshedji was a man without any false sense of ego or vanity; very modest, very human. In those days we did not have much practice (of course Bomi Zaiwalla’s practice had grown) and so we would go to Chhaya restaurant, Iqbal, Bomi and myself. He would join us at Chhaya restaurant and enjoyed eating dahi missal! In those days cricket matches were played at the Brabourne Stadium. He was a member of the CCI and had a pass; we could not buy tickets. The Zaiwalla brothers, Dara and Bomi, would smuggle us in, either in Islam Gymkhana or Hindu Gymkhana seats. Kharshedji would insist “No, I will join you”; because if the seat-holder came, we had to get up. And Kharshedji would come and take care of us there. This was the humility of the person. Kharshedji took cricket very seriously, he was our Captain and a very gutsy man. Once, somebody made a full-blooded drive at the covers and he stopped it with his shins; it was a remarkable thing!
Kharshedji’s handwriting was very poor. It was very difficult to read. Once he was arguing a matter before Justice Rege, and he called me; I was not with him in the matter. I was called from the library. He said, “look up this authority”; I could not read what was written. So he let go some expletive in the vernacular, which I can’t reproduce here. The Judge said “Mr Rana, you can’t read your own handwriting?” I replied, “No, it’s his diary. He can’t read therefore he called me. Because I can’t read, he let go!” So Kharshedji said, “I told you and you are telling so and so!”; and he also included the Judge! Justice Rege had a hearty laugh!
About the air-conditioner which was mentioned earlier: it was a Kelvinator from Spencer & Co. Now, if anything went wrong he would ask Bhiwa to ask ‘Readymoney’ to come and repair it. So Bhiwa would call and say, “Readymoney, Bhabhasaheb keheche emnu air-conditioning chaaltu nathi, aavijavo.” And some Parsi chap would come and repair the air-conditioner. Once Bhiwa was not there and Kharshedji asked me to ask ‘Readymoney’. So I called and asked for Mr Readymoney (Bhiwa would never use that prefix). Mr Readymoney came to the phone, and I said “would you kindly come?” He said “No, I am sending my mechanic”. I said, “You won’t be coming?” “No, I’m the Managing Director of Spencer & Co”. So that’s how I came to know that the Managing Director of the company was addressed by Bhiwa as only ‘Readymoney’! That was Kharshedji’s Chamber; his peons also would use all sorts of language! Great chaps!
Kharshedji was very fond of music. And if Naju was not there and he liked the music, he would remember her. He had tremendous love and respect for Naju and the entire family, as Iqbal and Fali pointed out. He would miss her very much. And we would say “shall we call her?” “By all means call her … now it is too late!” That’s how Kharshedji was. There are several personal things which I cannot say here; but one thing I must point out. At the last stage of his life, when he was not keeping too well, Naju served him so well and took such great care and showed such love and affection and coolness that I don’t think, with all my other boasts about serving people, I could have kept my cool all the time. And I salute her for this. I am sure that God will bless her and bless her children and bless the entire family. I pray for peace for Kharshedji’s very noble and pious soul.
IQBAL M CHAGLA
Rafique Dada, President, Mr Kapadia, Vice-President, Naju, members of the family and friends,
To say that I was impressed would be an understatement. Here was his salt and pepper hair, that leonine mane, that trimmed moustache, the heavy frame and puffing on a pipe. What I was not prepared for were the expletives which Fali spoke of.
When I came back to India as a fledgling barrister, my father advised me that I should go and see the doyen of the Bar, Sir Jamsetjee Kanga and seek his advice. I did so and Jamsetjee, in typical fashion, said “I am now passé, why don’t you go to Kharshedji Bhabha.” I did. I waited for him and he returned that evening, from Court.To say that I was impressed would be an understatement. Here was his salt and pepper hair, that leonine mane, that trimmed moustache, the heavy frame and puffing on a pipe. What I was not prepared for were the expletives which Fali spoke of.His air-conditioner didn’t seem to be functioning too well and he pressed the bell and along came our peon, a chap called Ramakant. And, well, thick and fast the expletives flew like pigeons at Trafalgar Square; and he told him put it up. He dutifully put up a stool and went up. If the air-conditioner was up he put it down, if it was down he put it up; unruffled and used to it and he walked out again. It’s not so much that I was a prude or puritan, I’d spent nine years in St Mary’s High School; the only thing was that I wasn’t used to hearing that sort of language in these hallowed surroundings of Chamber Number 1.
Fali has spoken of the old Chambers which I never knew, Jamstjee Kanga’s. When it was shifted, as Fali described, Jamsetjee Kanga occupied the major part of the Chambers. Into this little corner was given Kharshedji his self-contained Chambers, in recognition of his large practice. Fali has told you of the table that he had. Kharshedji had a very imposing table, Fali had a first junior’s table; the rest were all cubicles in which even conferences would be held, provided they were small enough. And it was said at the time that to join Chamber No. 1 was an occupational hazard; you ran every risk of being offered a judgeship! Look at the people there were: Fali, Soli Sorabjee, Jehangoo Khambatta who became one of the most distinguished Managing Directors of Glaxo, Obed Chinoy, Avinash Rana and a host of others who will not be mentioned. These were the Chambers.
If I were asked to single out any one particular facet of Kharshedji which impressed me the most, it was his work ethic. It was an incredible work ethic. There was no brief that he would not ‘chew up’ completely, before entering a Court, contrary to his protestations when he would say “why should I fib, I haven’t even opened this brief!” We all knew there was no question of not opening that brief; he had ‘chewed it up’ completely. And that commitment and devotion to work was second only to his devotion and love to his family; to Naju, his children and I must not forget, to the horse and the dog.
To me, Kharshedji Bhabha was the epitome of what a lawyer should be: successful, wanted in every Court, a commanding, imposing presence and a romantic streak. And speaking of the horse, he would get up early in the morning, drive in a vintage Acedes sports coupe, open to the sky, that leonine mane flowing in the wind, go to the Turf Club, do a few chakkars on his horse, come back again, back to his table, reading! He would then come to the Chambers, smoking a cigar; the pipes would follow later in the day. And he would be there late, late into the evening and none of us dared to leave until he did.
I believe there were three phases in Kharshedji’s life. The first was the successful phase; the advocate who was wanted in every Court, who did not accept all the allurements of life in Delhi. The second, after he had a heart attack, a mild heart attack (of course he would admit only to mild dyspepsia! ), was the phase which was the withdrawn, contemplative phase. And the third phase was when a brood of youngsters entered our Chambers. They were led by Jimmy Avasia, ably assisted by Fredie DeVitre, Erach Kotwal, Darius Khambatta, Janak Dwarkadas. This was ‘The Red Brigade’ of which Kharshedji Bhabha became the leader. They were totally irreverent, as irreverent as we were awe-struck and respectful. But they gave him, I think, (and Homi his son agrees with me) a new lease of life. There were then the ‘Dholia’ parties, there were the cricket matches which he captained; of course, all the members of Chamber No. 1 had a right to be included in the cricket team! The others were included, not because of their cricketing skills, but because of the authorities they might have looked up for him or might look up for him in the future! There were the evenings at Abanara and there were the snooker games at the Bombay Gym hosted by Sam Variava in the middle of a working day. And to any passer-by Kharshedji felt he owed an explanation: “ … .the Courts are closed, so we’ve come here for that reason.” This was the third phase and I think it was entirely because of the Red Brigade that it gave him a new lease of life.
The last few years were painful. They were years which Kharshedji could never have imagined and would never have wanted for himself. It was painful for him. I know it was painful for the family. And this to a man who, if you told him: “Why don’t you rest?” The answer was “Rest? Rest in the grave!” In fact, Kharshedji has given us a whole language, a whole idiom, a whole vocabulary which has now passed into idiomatic English, as far as we are concerned. On the 24th of May, mercifully, he was released. Naju, Homi, Sorab, Maneck, Homi Jr, Firoza, Neerja, the grandchildren: I can offer no condolences because I am myself bereaved today. I have lost somebody who I considered a mentor; and I can offer no condolences. All I can say is that Kharshedji, that rough diamond, is not lost to us. He has found his place in history and in folklore and will be remembered by all of us; and particularly by those who had the privilege of having belonged to Chamber Number 1.
MESSAGE FROM SOHRAB K BHABHA
Thank you for this forum where you have afforded us the space to share and reminisce.
The sweetest, the purest and the most elevating friendship of my life
Among my belongings, I have a copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, with an inscription on its first page. The inscription reads: “Bought the 19th day of January 1940— ‘le jour fatale’—when terminated magnificently the sweetest, the purest and the most elevating friendship of my life”. This inscription was by Kharshedji, on the passing on of his father, with whom he shared an uncommonly true relationship. It purported to capture a precious moment in my father’s life. The emotions of that moment were enhanced for me because they were experienced by him, revisited, relived through him; and he, my father, has always been infinitely precious to me. I have kept this book with me at all times, from my very early teens; then, I thought I understood what it meant. Today that meaning, inscription and all, are even clearer.
So today, I ask myself: why is he so precious? Because he is my father? That’s just not reason enough, in my book, to be honest. What is it, then, about him which made and keeps him so precious, so memorable? Was it his sense of camaraderie? Was it his child-like transparency? His sense of mischief and irreverence? His irascible manner? His ruthless plainspeak? His beliefs and disbeliefs, and their totality? His thoroughness of approach with whatever he had at hand? His vexatious repetitiveness? His concern and its obsessive, even burdensome consequences? His values? His achievements? His failures? His paradoxes? His sense of hurt and his occasionally hurtful manner? His foibles? His system of signals, partly worded, partly profane, partly masked by his hand positioned at his moustache, wistful? What was the essence of Kharshedji? The jury is out: and I would hesitate to conclude. No, I would not wish to make even an interlocutory statement!
For the last two decades at least, Kharshedji had very squarely addressed the inevitable passing on of life. I never had the impression of him even as much as flinching; yet, he often did speak about the manner of the end. He hoped it would be gentle, swift, almost imperceptible. And he would add that such a boon was sought by every person but granted to only very few fortunates. I can report that this boon was granted him. Like a flower, he dropped. And this is where every one of us in this room, every one of you, enter the picture. Kharshedji believed in pluralistic faith, personal worship, the spark of divinity in all creation around him, particularly that spark in animals and human beings. He believed in the Godhead in every person and had little place for the putative presence of divinity within temple walls. We, as a family, believe that it was your goodwill, your blessings, those moments of his life which you enriched, that substantially contributed to his beliefs and to his passing on as well as he had lived. For this, we wish to offer our deepest gratitude to every one of you.
Thus, may we heed Khayyam’s plea in the Rubaiyat, so dear to Kharshedji:
On a note of conclusion, again from the same text:
That ev’n my buried Ashes such a Snare Of Perfume shall fling up into the Air,
As not a True Believer passing by
But shall be overtaken unaware.
As Papa would have said with some flourish, Tamam Shud.
Mr Dada then proposed the following resolution, which was duly seconded and passed unanimously.
“This House mourns the sad and sudden demise of Shri KH Bhabha and expresses its deepest condolences to the members of his bereaved family. In his passing, the Bar has lost a fiercely independent advocate of great acumen and renown. May his soul rest in eternal peace.”
The House observed a two-minute silence as a mark of respect to the deceased.
BAR ASSOCIATION OBITUARY NOTICE
It is with the most profound regret that we have to inform our members that on Monday, May 24, 2004 Mr Kharshedji Hormasji Bhabha, Senior Advocate, passed away after a prolonged illness.
In his prime, Kharshedji Bhabha was widely regarded as one of the finest lawyers of the Bombay High Court. He began his career at the Bar as a junior to the legendary Sir Jamsetjee Kanga and, till the facility was withdrawn, continued to use those Chambers—known always as Chamber Number One. Kharshedji was an arresting personality—tall, leonine and white-maned, he could even seem forbidding till one got to know his mischievous and irreverent sense of humour (frequently disconcerting to those who did not know that he meant no harm). He worked tirelessly and hard but was always ready to join his juniors and Chamber colleagues in a more convivial setting. There are those stories of afternoons at the Bombay Gym playing billiards with the usual suspects, or to a dinner at Abanara … and of him in Court, where he was a fearsome, untiring and daunting opponent.
Many of those juniors are themselves today counted among the country’s leading lawyers—Soli Sorabjee, Fali Nariman, Iqbal Chagla and Avinash Rana (a junior to both him and to Soli) among them.
Kharshedji was also a passionate rider—he was one of the founders of the Amateur Riders Club. He was equally passionate about music and there is a truly delectable story of the old days about Kharshedji riding in Matheran with a bearer following carrying a wind-up gramophone, thus combining both passions.
At the end of a dinner or a long day in Court, Kharshedji would announce, poker-faced: “The party’s over.” Indeed it is, and in a way Kharshedji perhaps never imagined. In him, we have lost one of the last true personalities of the Bombay Bar, one of those icons who are the stuff of legend and without whom no history of this Association could ever be complete.
Kharshedji Bhabha is survived by his wife, Naju, their two sons and a daughter. The Association extends its deepest condolences to the members of his family.
May his soul rest in eternal peace.