I am happy to participate in the 39th Annual and Elder’s Day celebrations of the AGE-CARE INDIA organisation dedicated to the welfare of senior citizens.
I am very happy to note AGE-CARE INDIA has been honouring eminent senior citizens with the ‘Most Eminent Senior Citizen Award’ each year.
While eminent jurist, Shri Fali S Nariman was honoured last year, another illustrious senior citizen, legal luminary, jurist, scholar and former Attorney General of India, Shri K Parasaran is being honoured today. It is a fitting recognition of his exceptional contribution to the field of law and justice as well as his extraordinary personality.
Let me, at the outset, congratulateand convey my reverential appreciation to Shri Parasaran Ji for this honour!
After a brilliant academic record, Shri Parasaran has had an illustrious career during which he adorned the top positions of the Advocate General of Tamil Nadu, the Solicitor General of India and the Attorney General.
In recognition of his accomplishments, he was nominated, in 2012, as a member of the Rajya Sabha and was decorated with the honours of Padma Bhushan in 2003 and Padma Vibhushan in 2011.
Known for his erudition, discipline, hard work, honesty and ethics, Shri Parasaran’s legal canvas has been wide. With equal felicity, Shri Parasaran, throughout his distinguished career, had handled a wide array of cases-- be they serious constitutional matters or inter-State water disputes.
Today, at 92 years, Sri Parasaran stands tall among the entire length and breadth of India in terms of knowledge of law, knowledge of Shastras, erudition and ethics and is rightly referred to as a ‘Pitamaha’ of the Indian Bar.
He was humorously referred to as the ‘super Attorney General’. Despite defending the Government in Court for decades, he did not shy away from voicing his views and disagreeing with the political leadership.
In 1985, as Solicitor General of India, he advised the Government not to act on the show-cause notice to demolish the Indian Express building as it was legally untenable. When the Government did not listen to him, he refused to defend the Government in Court and withdrew from the case. He offered to resign but his stature was such that not only was he kept in office, but was made the Attorney General two months thereafter.
Having numerous cases to his credit, he has dextrously handled complicated Constitutional issues. He has been considered to be indispensable by several Governments. His knowledge and experience is oceanic, and is widely respected by the Bar and the Bench.
Judges have recorded appreciation for his “persuasive precision” in his legal arguments in Court on more than one occasion. For instance, in Maru Ram v Union of India, Justice Krishna Iyer observed, “We must appreciatively mention that he did tersely meet point by point, with persuasive precision, juristic nicety, case-law erudition and fair concession. His submissions have helped us see the issues in perspective and focus attention on fundamentals without being side-tracked by frills and frippery.”
I am delighted to share with you a quote of Justice Sahai who observed,in PMA Metropolitan v. Moran Mar Marthoma:
“Both the learned Senior Counsel, Mr K. Parasaran for the appellant and Mr F. Nariman for the respondents, without expression of any emotion, admirable understanding and respect for each other, with utmost congenial coolness and exemplary precision and clarity.”
There can’t be a more eloquent testimony of the greatness of Shri Parasaran ji as a legal practitioner. It is also worth noting that both the luminaries mentioned by Justice Sahai have been honoured by AGE CARE INDIA.
On two recent occasions, he was appointed as Amicus Curiae (friend of the Court) – one is Manoj Narula v. Union of India (wherein he propounded the doctrine of ‘constitutional morality’) and the other is Subramaniam Swamy v. Union of India (the defamation case).
A versatile personality, he is known for his love for cricket as well as Indian religious tradition. He was appointed on the Committee for Temple Reforms by the Government of J. Jayalalitha and was also a member of the Expert Committee to suggest remedial measures with regard to the alleged restoration of the idol at the famous rock shrine temple of Lord Muruga at Palani. At the age of 77, he travelled to visit the holy shrine of Kedarnath and Kailash – Mansarovar.
His arguments are often peppered with scriptural references and anecdotes. His spiritual faith and belief is deeply interwoven with his legal expertise. Earlier, when rival parties approached him to represent them in the Ram Sethu case relating to the Sethu Samudram project, Sri Parasaran chose to argue against the Government and for protecting the Sethu. When asked why he was opposing the Government, he recalled the Kanda Purana which describes the Sethu. “It is the least I can do for Rama”, he told the Court.
Shri Parasaran also made a mark as a member of the Rajya Sabha and always used to make meaningful and constructive suggestions while participating in debates. Everybody used to listen with rapt attention whenever he spoke.
He is held in high regard by everyone not only for his knowledge and erudition, but also for his humility and generosity. It is a matter of pride for all of us that Sri Parasaran ji is admired and respected internationally for his contribution to law and jurisprudence.
Dear sisters and brothers,
Parasaran ji embodies the ideal expressed by poet Kalidasa who had said, in the epic poem, Raghuvamsham, “ vruddhatvam jarasaa vinaa” or the ability to constantly grow in stature without growing old. He continues to be an ever-passionate and tireless champion of causes dear to his heart.
We are a civilization that has always been proud of the way we treated our elderly. We have always given the most esteemed and respectful positions in the society to our elders.
Manu Smriti, one of our ancient texts has this statement:
“If one serves the elderly with devotion, he or she is blessed with long life, sound education, fame and strength”.
We should take inspiration from these ennobling thoughts from the past and shape societal response to the the elderly.
In the past, the elderly enjoyed a place of reverence. They were custodians of righteousness, traditions, family honour and samskara and wisdom. We must build this inter-generational bond once again.
Unfortunately, in spite of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007, the number of cases of children abandoning their elderly parents is on the rise. Apart from abandonment, many elderly persons are also facing neglect, abuse, physical, verbal and emotional and other forms of violence. This is completely unacceptable.
There is also a need to expand geriatric healthcare facilities in our hospitals. Senior Citizens have the right to barrier- free public places. They have the right to safe and quiet spaces for peer group and intergenerational dialogue.
I am glad that the government has initiated many schemes like Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana, Integrated Programme for Senior Citizens and National Programme for the Healthcare of Elderly, apart from giving concessions in income tax and railways/ airlines travel.
Taking care of elderly is a societal responsibility. This must become the societal norm once again.
Today’s event celebrates the exemplary achievements of an extraordinary individual.
It is a celebration of the incredible positive energy of a deeply spiritual legal practitioner who has tried to blend both “dharma” and “nyaya”.
It is a celebration of the indomitable spirit of standing by truth and justice even when falsehood threatens to cloud the vision.
It is the celebration of a person who demonstrates the truth behind the saying that “age is a mere number”.
I wish many lawyers take inspiration from Sri Parasaran ji ‘s qualities and the values of professional excellence and ethical orientation he has consistently adhered to throughout his career.