4 November 1924 — 28 March 2004
141 Members attended the meeting, including Mr Justice SJ Vazifdar, Mr Justice SC Dharmadhikari and Mr Justice SU Kamdar.
RAFIQUE A DADA
President, Bombay Bar Association
We meet here this evening to mourn the sad demise of Mr K S Cooper, popularly known to all of us as Khatu Cooper. In the passing away of Mr Cooper one of the great icons of this Bar is no more. He was one of the finest advocates practicing on the Original Side and many of us present in this room owe a lot to him by way of learning which he taught us when we were juniors at the Bar.
But he immediately disarmed me with his tremendous benign presence and his great sense of humour
My earliest association with Mr Cooper was virtually the third or fourth day after I joined the Bar. I had heard of him as a great professor in law college; I had heard of him as a great author on constitutional law — he had authored a book on the subject. I always thought he would be a very formidable and forbidding person, but he immediately disarmed me with his tremendous benign presence and his great sense of humour.
From that day onwards, I always found Mr Cooper one of the most wonderful Advocates and one of the most wonderful friends at the Bar. One could approach him with any knotty legal problem and he was always ready to help. He was an ever-smiling face at the Bar with his strong repertoire of jokes and virtually every junior was entertained. I appeared with him in many matters in the initial stages of my career, particularly in the Sales Tax Reference Court, a very dull subject by all accounts, but because of Mr Cooper’s presence and his fine advocacy, it became a wonderful subject. What I really looked forward to were not only the arguments which he made at the Bar, but also the evenings which we spent working on the briefs for the next day. These were full of anecdotes, full of jokes and he drew the best from every person who worked with him. In fact, most of us saw him in action, we saw that virtually every important brief in the High Court was offered to him — he was either on this side or the other. His great powers of persuasion carried many a difficult and doubtful case.
He was the President of this Bar for many years. People wanted to hear him
He was the President of this Bar for many years. People wanted to hear him. At every Bar evening, he regaled us with his jokes and made it an evening to remember.
Over the last few years, he must have had some premonition for in the last few days, he told some of us that he would not live for very much longer. We believed that he was wrong. We believed that his indomitable spirit would conquer any malady. But, alas, it was not to be and he finally succumbed to his illness. Only a few days earlier, he said that this was perhaps his last visit to the Bar. Here was a man who faced his illness with courage. He had the courage to see death in the face and talk about it frankly.
But he loved the Bar. He loved the Bar Association. He loved the atmosphere of this Court. He loved the Bar Library. He loved everyone who came here. Notwithstanding his illness, whenever he came to Court, he spent time in the Bar Library and in this Association, exchanging pleasantries with us.
People like Cooper do not really die. They will live in the history of this Court. This will be a void difficult to fill. We will sorely miss him: his presence, his benign smile, his vast repertoire of jokes and his vast knowledge of law. Today, for myself and on behalf of all present here, I offer our deepest condolences to Mrs Mani Cooper, who spent her entire life with him with so much love and who looked after him in the last few months of his life with so much devotion. I also offer my condolences to Mr and Mrs Soli Cooper, Mr and Mrs Tushad Cooper and the entire Cooper family. The Cooper legacy is now in their hands. This legacy will, of course, live on. In this hour of grief, let us tell them that we are with them. May the Almighty God give you the strength to bear this loss.
MRS FRENY PONDA
I can’t bring myself to calling him the late Mr KS Cooper. I have known him for 52 years and I wish I don’t become emotional and I pray that I do not break down. Firstly, let me tell you the Cooper family, especially Mr & Mrs Soli Cooper and Mr & Mrs Tushad Cooper, they alone are not orphaned. So many juniors to whom he was a beacon light, source of inspiration, are also orphaned. Being so sympathetic and kind, he will be missed by each and every one of us. By me, by all of you and Mrs Gracious, a lady who depended heavily upon him for sympathy. In fact, kindness and sympathy were the middle names of Khatu Cooper.
I joined the Bar in June 1952 and although I had not taken my sanad, the then Secretary, Justice BJ Divan, allowed me to sit in the Library in anticipation of my passing the AS examination. Since I had not taken the sanad, I wore coloured clothes. I was sitting on the table then occupied by Cawas Daji, Anil Divan, Sharad Desai, Khatu and a few of Mr Banaji’s juniors. Mani had not joined the Bar at that time, it was a year later. Khatu walked up to me and with a twinkle in his eyes, he said, “Have you seen Aan?” I was taken aback. I did not know what he meant. Aan was the first technicolour Indian movie. Then it registered upon me when I saw Anil Divan and Sharad Desai sniggering.
Such was Khatu. Sunshine and laughter and fun. He was the life and soul of every party. A short time later, after Mani joined the Bar, we had such fun. The ‘we’ includes Justice Dinshaw Madon, who was with us in Banaji’s chamber at that time, his wife, Fali Nariman, Mani, myself, Baccha Cooper and Khatu. We used to have dinner at the Fredricks — which is now Ling’s Pavilion — and then go for coffee to the airport. My mother always wondered, “Isn’t coffee available in the Churchgate area?” But she did not know what a trip it was. Khatu would regale us with anecdotes and jokes and Fali also singing sometimes off-coloured songs. Sometimes Bomi Lentin would join us.
Then Mani went to London to study and while she was going, he gave her the finest gift — not diamonds or emeralds — but the gift of his love. In fact, it was I who introduced Khatu and Mani near the gates of Government Law College. At that time, Khatu was a struggling junior of five years’ standing. He did not have a car. He used to bring a leather briefcase. He used to stay at Princess Street. Every night, Cawas Daji, the seniormost junior of Manekshaw, would give us a lift. After Mani returned, it was my proud privilege to hand over her acceptance of his proposal when he was arguing in Court. Later, of course, he was the President of this Association for eleven years.
Family life was very important to him. He gave it priority. He has reached heights no doubt. A single request by the children or Mani was like an imperial command. And though he personally did not like travel — he said, “What is the use of travelling, pack and unpack all the time?” — he preferred cruises, when he could relax. His wife, for the last 25 years, accompanied him to every part of India and abroad. They were both dependent on each other, both suffered from angina, he would support her and she would support him.
Till the tragedy struck. But valiant soldier that he was, he displayed fortitude, not only in Court, not only in life, but even in the face of the terminal stage. His devotion to his wife is to be envied. He treated her like a queen. When I went to see him in hospital, I brought him some mushroom tablets from Malaysia, an ayurvedic cure. He said, “I don’t know, I will do what my Mana says. She’s my doctor, she’s my friend, she’s my companion, she’s my all in all.” People tried various treatments but he refused saying he believed only in God, his mother and his father. And when Dr Udwadia and Dr Advani gave up hope and said they could only give him injections to lessen the pain but that there was no further medicine, a friend of mine who is a healer, telephoned him from London and said, “How do you feel, Khatu?” And Khatu said, “Well, they are saying I am not all right, but I feel completely all right.”
Then they took him home. The motivation behind his survival, his willpower came from the hand-crafted artistic Faberge style eggs that Mani had created, a technique she learned on a cruise only as recently as 1997. Khatu wanted them exhibited before he passed away. And on the 20th and 21st of March his wish was fulfilled. A day before that, he came out of the bedroom in a wheelchair to see the exhibition and his last wish was over. Exactly a week later, at five past noon, he breathed his last. Like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, I said, “Good night, sweet prince, and may flights of angels guard thee to thy rest.”
Great men build memorials, public places of marble and stone but Khatu has built his memorial in our hearts
Khatu did not crave fame. It came to him. Providence made him great, but he made himself greater by love, affection, sympathy. He was a beacon light to everybody, however hopeless. Great men build memorials, public places of marble and stone but Khatu has built his memorial in our hearts. Although his body is gone, his spirit lives on. I can sense his presence in this room even now. He is at peace now, in the land of peace that passeth all understanding. As he crossed the tunnel and saw the light at its end, the angel said “Welcome, thou good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of the Lord.” He was truly a rare combination of goodness and greatness.
I will read only a few lines from John Donne’s “Death, Be Not Proud”. May his soul rest in peace. May his soul progress onwards and onwards. May his karmas take him finally to merge finally with the eternal light. My condolences to the Cooper family.
MR IQBAL CHAGLA
There is an aching emptiness in this Association today. It is an aching emptiness not only in this Association but at the entire Bar. We have lost a former President, we have lost one of the most illustrious members of the Bar. We have lost a colleague and we have lost a friend.
Mark Antony’s words at the funeral oration of Julius Caesar, “The evil that men do lives after them and the good is oft interred with their bones,” is not and cannot be apposite to Khatu Cooper. Khatu had no evil in him, no malice, no ill-will. It was just a fund of goodwill and so he had no enemies but only friends. He was approachable to the most junior member of the Bar.
My own experience soon after I joined the Bar: I had a misunderstanding with a Solicitor in the matter of the marking of a fee. I went to Khatu and asked, “Is the Solicitor right or am I right?” He heard this very junior member — I was barely two years’ standing — he heard all the facts and he said, “you are right and he is wrong.” And I felt reassured that I had done nothing wrong. I think every junior member found him always approachable; he could always go to him.
His knowledge of the law was enormous. But most of all was his analytical mind. He could read the most obscure statute and he could analyse it and make it clear.
His knowledge of the law was enormous. But most of all was his analytical mind. He could read the most obscure statute and he could analyse it and make it clear. He brought passion and heat to his arguments but never carried it outside the courtroom. Very recently, end of February, I appeared against him in a matter. He was desperately ill, he was in pain. I asked him why he had come. He said, “This is a pro bono matter. It is for family. It is for friends. Therefore, I have to come.” And in the course of arguments, I attributed something to him which he protested strongly and said “I did not say this.” I said, “If I misunderstood my learned friend, I express my regret.” When we left the court and were in the lift, I said, “Khatu, if I have given you offense, I apologise.” He said, “My dear chap, I’ve been at the Bar over 50 years. Whatever happens in Court causes no offense outside.”
He had a great deep respect and an abiding affection for my father. As the President of this Association, at the Full Court Reference, he made the most moving speech I have ever heard. It brought tears to my eyes then and even when I hear it now it moves me to tears. When I told him about the speech, he said, “But it all came from the heart.” I am therefore happy that today, in some small way, I am able to pay a tribute to this great man.
But more than the work, but more than his abiding passion for work and the great contribution he made to the Bar, was to the independence of the judiciary. A few of us filed a petition and he, along with AJ Rana, HM Seervai and Jangoo Gagrat, gave up his time and spent weeks and weeks in Delhi in what is now the SP Gupta case. That was his commitment and he never failed to do his duty by the Bar.
But more than anything else, I think his greatest quality — which Freny referred to — was his selfless and immense love for his family and, particularly, Mani. I remember we were in Paris at a seminar, and we’d all gone out for dinner and we were walking along the Champs Elysees. Khatu was not feeling well. He and a couple of us brought up the rear. Mani was up ahead. Periodically, she’d come back and ask “Khatu, how are you feeling?” The third time she did that, Khatu said, “Mani, how ever will you enjoy yourself if you keeping worrying about my health?” That was his selfless love. It was requited in great measure by Mani and the boys.
Today, we have lost Khatu. We have lost a friend and a colleague. Freny has referred to the last exhibition of Mani’s Faberge eggs. When that exhibition was held, it was the realization of a dream for Khatu. I believe he lived for that. He summoned all his will power to stay alive for that exhibition. On the 19th of March, when we went there, he was in a wheelchair, but he was full of enthusiasm. He would take every guest and say “This was Mani’s first creation.” Then somebody would appreciate another one and he would say, “no, no that’s nothing, come and see this. This is far more beautiful. Look at the work she has done!” Such was his enthusiasm. Freny has said the exhibition over, he had stayed alive for that, there was nothing then to keep him from slipping away.
For Mani, for Soli, for Tushad, their wives, there are no words we can offer which can be of any solace to them. I can only say that their loss is our loss and we share it with them.
MR DARA ZAIWALLA
I speak on behalf of all his juniors, past and present who had the privilege of being in the Chamber of Khursetjee Cooper. I was one of those. I was associated with him for the last four decades. The previous speakers have eulogized his various qualities. I therefore speak of my life with him.
He had one of the clearest legal minds
He had one of the clearest legal minds and his analysis of legal propositions and capacity to explain with simplicity was the advantage of being in his Chamber. He was always available to all, not only his own juniors, who wanted any clarifications. In fact, if I had any difficulty whether a particular proposition should be made, I would clear it with him and if he approved of it, I would go ahead inspite of any hostility from the Court.
After his juniors became seniors at the Bar, he would insist that we were not his juniors, but his colleagues. We would respond that though he may disown us as his juniors for us, he would always remain our senior.
We will all miss him in the High Court Library, in the Bar Association, with his narrations, jokes, anecdotes and legendary knowledge of ancient mythology, from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, ancient and modern history, both Indian and world — there was hardly a subject on which he could not discourse. His sense of humour never left him and a week before his passing, when Vasant Kotwal, I and Nari Bharucha went to visit him, though his body was failing him, his mind was absolutely clear and even in that state of mind, he regaled us with a few jokes.
He was not only a complete lawyer, but also a complete man
He was not only a complete lawyer, but also a complete man. We in the Library and the Association who had the honour to share his table will miss him. He will be missed by his family, his wife and his two sons. This morning, Vasant Kotwal gave me a couplet which he had written in his own handwriting about two or three weeks before he passed away.
I have no doubt that that light will shine forever in our hearts.
MR JIMMY AVASIA
Friends, a quietly courageous man died just the other day.
Friends, a quietly courageous man died just the other day. He had displayed that quality during the Emergency. He showed that when we heaped odium upon him and he showed us that when he refused to go gentle into that dark night.
When Khursetjee passed away, one couldn’t say he chose his time to die. But this I can say, that he chose when not to, because it was just a week earlier that, at his insistence, his adored wife was to hold an exhibition of her art. And damned if he wasn’t going to be there.
He was a truly wonderful family man as many of us would testify, for we felt we were his family.
I can only end thus: although he lived a life of some fullness, it did not seem so to many of us; for those whom we love either die too young or too soon.
MR RAM JETHMALANI
I was Khatu’s friend almost since 1948 when I migrated to this country from Pakistan. I was briefless and I used to go around the Courts to see the best in the Bombay Bar so that I could improve my own standards. It was then that I spotted Khatu. I walked up to him and asked for his friendship and he gave it to me in ample measure.
Soon enough, we refugees had a grievance against the Government of Bombay. They had passed a legislation that enabled them to treat refugees almost like animals. They couldn’t afford lawyers. They came to me and I went to Khatu. We both sat together and ultimately decided that the vires of the Act will have to be challenged. But Khatu spotted a weakness in our argument. We wasted days and days to find an answer. Neither of us succeeded. Ultimately, I told Khatu that we should just make the argument and rely on the opposition. We were opposed by someone whose book on constitutional law was our text book. Lo and behold, the Act was declared ultra vires and the most unanswerable argument was never made.
I knew that Khatu was potentially a great lawyer. I watched his career from day to day and saw his attain heights that are still envied by many. But we all stand in the same queue. Only our positions differ. My own position was ahead of Khatu. Somehow, he jumped the queue and left us mourning his demise. But I have one satisfaction and it makes my sorrow bearable: I believe that somehow, somewhere and soon enough, at least I will have the pleasure of meeting him, wherever he is.
When I was asked to speak today, I began to wonder what I should say about this multi-faceted personality and what I should put forward as the essence of Khatu Cooper. I thought of the rules of the professional conduct and etiquette which we made in the Bar Council of India. I do not know how many read those rules today. But there is a fantastic preamble to those rules.
“An advocate shall at all times comport himself in a manner befitting his status as an officer of the Court, a privileged member of the community and a gentleman bearing in mind that what may be lawful and moral for a person who is not a member of the Bar or for a member of the Bar in his non-professional capacity may still be improper for an Advocate.”
The essence of Khatu Cooper is that he was the kind of gentleman which the Preamble contemplates.
I then looked to another great authority, Lord Birkett, who said, “The Advocate has a duty to his client, a duty to the Court and a duty to the State. But he has, above all, a duty to himself, that he shall be as far as lies within his power, to be a man of integrity. No profession calls for higher standards of honour and uprightness and no profession perhaps offers greater temptations to forsake them.”
If Lord Birkett had seen Khatu and known of his professional career he would have perhaps considered him a perfect example of the perfect lawyer Lord Birkett envisioned.
The greatest tribute I can pay to Khatu today is that if Lord Birkett had seen Khatu and known of his professional career he would have perhaps considered him a perfect example of the perfect lawyer Lord Birkett envisioned.
Khatu carried a halo of saintliness not merely in his professional life but in his private life as well. Freny has just told you about the power which his wife exercised over him. I can only corroborate that. One day, he said, “Ram, in the tabernacle of my heart, one and only one candle shines bright, that illumines my life.” He was referring to the lady who sits before us this evening. He was a family man. Mani’s health often worried him. He had two naughty sons — all children with great potential are naughty; perhaps these two were unusually so. I remember that both father and mother often discussed the two children with me. Those were the days when I flirted with a little astrology. I looked into the horoscope of these two children and I told their parents that perhaps, one day, they will outshine both of you. I am glad that the two boys have made it good and I am quite sure that Khatu’s soul must be greatly proud of the two young men he has left behind. I have no doubt that they have a career ahead of them when they will perhaps outshine their father.
He was a lover of English poetry
Khatu was a great scholar. Above all, he was a scholar of English Literature. He was a lover of English poetry and he could regale you in private conversation or a private party with his knowledge of literature and the great literary figures he had studied in his younger days. He continued to read. He was very fond of my daughter who saw him only a week before his death when he gave her three volumes on Alexander. These were his reading habits. He was not a mere mason who knew law but he knew practically everything else and qualified more as an architect.
He combined the qualities of an ascetic with that of a hedonist and he enjoyed every good thing in life, of which he had a fair share. In other words, he never became an insufferable figure of irritating perfection. He had his own imperfections that made him human and made him the lovable creature that you all knew.
I came to know of his bravery during the Emergency. Khatu never stopped speaking out — I was surprised he didn’t go to jail for it — but that must be another accident of destiny.
Khatu lived a full and happy life of fulfillment. He gave an impression of austerity, but it was not so. He enjoyed life and he had the best possible company in his family.
He was a great bridge player, almost of international capability. I must confess that I tried to learn bridge from him. After a few lessons, I partnered another great player. After the session, my partner said, “Ram, if I did not know you to be honourable and a man of character, I would have believed that you were collaborating with the enemy.” All Khatu’s efforts to make me a bridge player did not succeed. That was one of his imperfections. It made him lovable.
We have lost a great friend, we have lost a great lawyer, we have lost a great gentleman.
We have lost a great friend, we have lost a great lawyer, we have lost a great gentleman. There are many ways of testing the greatness of a nation. One of the tests is whether the nation produces a race of courageous, talented and committed lawyers. I think Khatu contributed to this class. The nation has to be grateful to him. We need not mourn his death. Death has ultimately to come to all of us. The greater tribute we must pay to him is that we emulate his life and act according to the great principles by which he lived.
The President, Mr Dada then proposed the following resolution, which was seconded by Mr Jethmalani and passed unanimously.
“This House mourns the sad demise of Shri Khatu S Cooper and expresses its heartfelt condolences to the members of the bereaved family. May his soul rest in eternal peace.”
The house observed two minutes of silence in memory of the deceased.
TRIBUTE PUBLISHED ON THE ASSOCIATION WEBSITE
The following tribute appeared on this website.
IN MEMORIAM :
KHATU S COOPER
d. March 28, 2004
Doongerwadi, Tuesday, March 30, 2004, 3:40 pm
Bar Association, Thursday, April 1, 2004, 5:00 pm
It is with the most profound regret that we have to inform our members that, on Sunday, March 28, 2004 Mr Khatu S Cooper, Senior Advocate, passed away after a prolonged illness.
The uthamnais at 3:40 pm on Tuesday, March 30, 2004 at Doongerwadi.
The Bar Association will hold a condolence meeting for Mr Cooper on Thursday, April 1, 2004 at 5:00 pm in the Association premises.
Mr Cooper was, for many years, the President of this Association. He was one of India's most outstanding Advocates and his legal acumen and skills were widely regarded as the stuff of legend. Yet, he was always an uniquely unassuming, humble and gentle man of unfailing good cheer, ever-ready with his vast repertoire of amusing anecdotes which was matched only by his enormous knowledge of classical literature. With his unstinting generosity and many kindnesses, especially to juniors, he was truly a friend to every member of the Bar.
Very much of the old school, Khatu espoused his clients' causes with a fierce zeal and had an astoundingly successful practice. Above all, he remained, to the end, passionately committed to justice.
Khatu Cooper is survived by his wife, Mani, and his sons, Soli and Tushad, all Advocates and members of this Association. The Association extends its deepest condolences to the members of his family.
We at the Bombay Bar Association will miss his warmth and his ready laughter, the twinkle in his eye, the anecdotes and memories that only he knew and his razor-sharp delineation of the most complex legal principles. Khatu will long be fondly remembered by the members of this Association. In him, we have lost both a teacher and a friend.
With his passing, an era ends. May his soul rest in eternal peace.