The entire Indian Legal System inclusive of Bench, Bar and Legal Educational Institutions lost a great senior advocate, jurist, legal academician and the expert in Constitutional Law and Service jurisprudence, in the middle of the month September 2017, when we all came across the sad news of passing away of Shri P.P. Rao, resulting into the saddened atmosphere in entire Legal fraternity of our country. He used to be a towering personality in the corridors of Supreme Court of India, with frequent appearances in various matters of utmost importance, particularly in the constitutional matters and also in service matters. His passing away has resulted in a great vacuum. 

Shri Rao hailed from the State of Andhra Pradesh, and he had no legal background in his paternal and/or maternal side. He struggled also for some period during his student life due to some odd family circumstances. However since he maintained his brilliance throughout, he succeeded in becoming a Professor in Faculty of Law, Delhi University, and he continued for nearly six years from the years 1961 to 1967. His life story also reveals that after taking such a big decision, he had to take few months to convince his family members that this decision will bring glory in his career sometimes in future, if not in near future. The fact remained that as an academician, he used to be highly respected amongst students and even amongst other faculty members of Delhi University.

After joining the legal profession in the Chamber of stalwart Sr. Advocate (earlier retired Judge of the then Hon’ble Calcutta High Court) Shri N.C. Chatterjee at Supreme Court of India, soon he came up as an eminent lawyer, as also in the year 1977 he was designated as a Senior Advocate by Supreme Court. After such designation, he never looked back and became very well recognized by way of his engagement as a Senior Advocate in various matters of Constitutional importance of very high level, and also in the litigation relating to service disputes. The cases argued by him indicated that all kind of litigants used to prefer to engage him. He appeared for Educational Institutions, Private Parties, Corporations, State Governments, and various other bodies during his Practicing career of more than 50 years. His assistance to the Benches of the Apex Court of the land (Supreme Court) throughout was well recognized by the legal luminaries in the matters he argued. Many times Courts sought his assistance as an Amicus-Curiae, and needless to say that he was able to mould considerably the directions of those matters towards the basic principles of the subjects of law involved. 

He proved to be a very respected Senior Advocate, as the fact remains that many of the students he taught at Delhi University, came up to the high levels of Practice in the legal profession, as well as Judiciary. During his arguments before different benches of Supreme Court, and at times before different High Courts in the country, the people belonging to the legal fraternity could see and feel the beautiful blending of academic touch and a teacher like approach, with the emphatic arguments on the points involved within the cases argued. His delivery used to be very courteous, sweet, persuasive, and at the same time very well-founded, in every case, he argued. The Supreme Court Bar Association elected him as its President in early 90s, and he played quite a positive role to become a bridge for harmony between the Bench and the Bar. 

His personality always shown to be of a quiet dignified Senior Advocate, who could not be ruffled or rattled by his opponent counsel, and also by the Courts. Patience always used to be an ornament with him. Because of simplicity, he could never be seen as too flamboyant kind of Senior Advocate, but his knowledgeable and legally perfect delivery of arguments always made him belonging to a very high cadre of eminence, recognition and repute. The Constitutional Wings in our country used to have a great liking and high level of respect for Shri P.P. Rao, resulting into the conferment of the prestigious Civil Award of our Country i.e. “Padma Bhushan”, and also his nomination as a member of “Rajya Sabha” for 6 years. As a Parliamentarian also, he contributed successfully to the Nation.  

Many times the legal institutions inclusive of Courts, the Bench and the Bar, Academic Institutions, and the people belonging to all the cadres, got enriched by his Lectures, Interviews, and the Law Conferences he addressed. His Lecture on “Working the Constitution” at Shimla (H.P.) on 11.09.2010 in memory of Late Shri Amarchand Sood, Senior Advocate of Himachal Pradesh High Court, text whereof stands reported in (2011) 1 SCC p. Jr-6 (in its Journal Section), is a memorable piece of document covering many subjects viz. the Constitution, Alien Rule, Representatives of the People, Political Parties, Coalition Governments, Corruption, Judicially, Unity & Integrity of India, Terrorism, Symptoms of a Sick Democracy, and lastly the Prophecy of Late Shri C. Rajagopalachari (respectfully called as “Rajaji”). His ample number of Articles reported in Journals on different important Subjects, and his addressing a large number of gatherings time and again on various topics benefited the Students also. 

He’s argued cases of utmost importance included the “Dismissal of 4 State Governments in December 1992 after the demolition of Babri Masjid, and the imposition of President’s Rule” in which he defended the Proclamations, and the Judgment is reported as “S.R. Bommai V/s. Union of India” – (1994) 3 SCC p.1 (9 Judges’ Bench); “Educational Institutions Matter” in the famous Judgment of “Unni Krishnan, J.P. & Ors. V/s. State of Andhra Pradesh & Ors.” – (1993) 1 SCC p.645”, in which he successfully argued against the evil of Capitation Fees; in “P.V. Narasimha Rao V/s. State (CBI/SPE)”, reported in (1998) 4 SCC p. 626, in which he fought for the Privileges of Parliamentarians; “T.M.A. Pai Foundation & Ors. V/s. State of Karnataka & Ors., reported in (2002) 8 SCC p.481; “Islamic Academic of Education V/s. State of Karnataka” reported in (2003) 6 SCC p.697; “P.A. Inamdar V/s. State of Maharashtra” reported in (2005) 6 SSC p.537; and “Best Bakery Case”, reported in (2004) 4 SCC p.158. 

In the year 2000, the Nation Celebrated 50 years’ completion of our Supreme Court, and in this memory, the Souvenir in name of “Essays in Honour of the Supreme Court of India – Supreme but not infallible” was published under the Editorship of Hon’ble the then Chief Justice Shri B.N. Kirpal (a privileged Chief Justice during the golden jubilee of the Apex Court); and teammates viz. Shri Ashok H. Desai, Shri Gopal Subramanium, Dr Rajeev Dhawan, and Shri Raju Ramachandran (all distinguished Sr. Advocates); was published; and for that, the Contribution of an Article “The Supreme Court and the Employee” by him touched many facets of various Service Matters’ Judgments of Constitutional importance, including the aspects relating to the Fundamental Rights/Privileges vide Article 12, Right to Equality, Interpretation of Fundamental Rights, Reservation of posts under Article 16(4), Hire & Fire, Excess Appointments, Arbitrariness in Recruitment, Seniority, Bias, Selection by Public Service Commissions, Claims of Ad-hoc Employees, Contract Labour, Transfer, Administrative Instructions, and Retrospective Rules etc. This descriptive article authored by him stands a tool of learning for advocates, academicians, interns, and the students of law. 

It has been a blessing to read the Judgments of Hon’ble Supreme Court in which he appeared, and further most of the Judgments remain quite descriptive about the Arguments he advanced before Hon’ble Judges. As an active participant from Rajasthan, I always remember and cherished his active involvement as one of the Faculties (besides other Luminaries such as Shri Ram Jethmalani, Shri K.K. Venugopal, Late Shri G. Ramaswami, the then-Attorney General, and Dr Rajeev Dhawan) in the “Workshop on the Constitutional Law of India” which was essentially organized in collaboration by Bar Council of India Trust, and National Law School of India University, Bengaluru, in October 1991 at Allahabad (U.P.). He made himself available for all the 5 days, by remaining over there throughout and addressing the participants on each & every subject relating to the Constitutional Law of India. Further, I was a privileged participant in Academic Session he presided in a “Law Conference” organized by Bar Council of India at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi in May 2012, and he addressed about the decay in legal education for yesteryears, due to corrupt practices in permitting the opening of those Law Colleges, which were not even having a bare minimum infrastructure to impart the legal education. He showed his grief and great concern that such corrupt practices on part of some high-handed elements have been leading towards upsetting the moral standards of the Courts on the ultimate basis, making the glory of the Constitution of India openly and flagrantly diminished.

Our Supreme Court and the Legal Fraternity as a whole have lost a highly reputed and commendable Senior Advocate, who was admittedly an Expert in Constitutional Law, and also in Administrative Law. The tributes for last some time to Late Shri Rao after his leaving the world for his heavenly abode on 13th September 2017 received from all the corners, show his high stature, and level of eminence he enjoyed in the Legal Profession, and also the kind of vacuum created now. May his departed pious soul rest in eternal peace, and may the Almighty provide ample courage to all his family members to sustain this loss. His daughter-in-law Ms Mahalakshmi Pavni has been practising at Supreme Court and Delhi High Court, and this legacy will always help us all to not to forget Late Shri P.P. Rao on this count also.

Senior Advocate Shri Sanjeev Johari
Senior Advocate Shri Sanjeev Johari

This article has been voiced and curated by Shri Sanjeev Johari, Senior Advocate, Rajasthan High Court. Born and raised in Jodhpur, Rajasthan (India), Shri Johari is a celebrated senior lawyer who practises litigation. His passion for the betterment of Indians, his honest dedication to his clients, and his courtroom acumen set him apart. His track record for success speaks for him. In his eventful journey of 30+ years as a lawyer, he also served as Vice President of Rajasthan High Court Advocates Association for the period 2001-02.