Soli Sorabjee, Eminent Indian Jurist and Jazz Lover, Dies at 91

Soli Sorabjee, Eminent Indian Jurist and Jazz Lover, Dies at 91


As a lawyer, he helped provide legal assistance to political prisoners when India was under emergency measures from 1975 to 1977. He was also involved in cases that protected local elected officials against dismissal by higher authorities and upheld the right of minorities to establish their own schools.

In 2002 Mr. Sorabjee, who made frequent television appearances as a commentator on law and politics, was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, the country’s second-highest civilian honor, for his defense of freedom of speech and protection of human rights.

Soli Jehangir Sorabjee was born in Bombay on March 9, 1930, into a wealthy Parsi family. His father, Jehangir Sorabjee, was a businessman who died when Soli was 20; his mother, Khorshed Sorabjee, was a homemaker.

He studied at St. Xavier’s College in Bombay and received his law degree from Government Law College there. A clarinetist, he formed his own jazz combo when he was still a college student.

Along with his son Hormazd, Mr. Sorabjee, who lived in New Delhi, is survived his wife, Zena; two other sons, Jehangir and Jamsheed; and a daughter, Zia Mody, a lawyer. His wife also tested positive for the coronavirus but was recovering.

Mr. Sorabjee was the first president of the Jazz India association, met Benny Goodman several times, had Dizzy Gillespie over to dinner and once flew from Bombay to Karachi, Pakistan, to hear Gillespie play. During a state reception for President Bill Clinton in India, he walked up to him and said he wanted to talk about a common friend who was also a president: the great jazz saxophonist Lester Young, whose nickname was Pres. Mr. Clinton, he said, looked at him in amazement.



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