Beyond Sustainable Economy: Nani Palkhivala – A Tax Advocate

Published: 05.08.2017

Dr. Justice Vineet Kothari[1]

Nani Palkhivala, an eminent Constitutional and Tax Advocate, who walked this Planet from 1920 to 2002 and left indelible marks on the constitutional history of independent India, included the following in his Will, to quote;

When I die.....

Give my sight to the man who has never seen a sunrise.

Give my heart to one who has known the agony of the heart.

Give my blood to a youth pulled from the wreckage of a car so that

he might live to see his grandchildren play. Let my kidneys drain

the poison from another's body.

Let my bones be used to make a crippled child walk.

Burn what is left of me and scatter the ashes to the wind to let the

flowers grow.

If you must bury something, let it be my faults and my prejudices

against my fellowmen.

Give my sins to the Devil.

Give my soul to the God.

If you wish to remember me, do it with a kind deed or word to

someone who needs you.

If you do all I have asked, I'll live forever.

What a wonderful thought Nani Palkhivala had about relinquishing everything he possessed till the last drop of blood.

I came to know of another anecdote of Nani Palkhivala. It is like this. He was to attend the Annual General Meeting as Chairman of the Tata Company at Indore. A Charitable Trust of Birla Group had some tax litigation before the Madhya Pradesh High Court. The executives of the Company were longing to seek his appointment and consent to argue the said case before the M.P. High Court, but Mr. Nani Palkhivala had no free time for the said purpose. The briefing counsel, an eminent advocate of Indore got the date of hearing fixed before the High Court on that very day when the Annual General Meeting of the said Company was fixed and which was to be chaired by Mr. Nani Palkhivala. Mr. Nani Palkhivala got free from the AGM by lunch time and his flight back to Mumbai was in the evening. The Judges were requested to take up the matter in the post lunch session, which they agreed.

After the lunch, the briefing counsel requested Mr. Palkhivala to argue the writ petition of the Charitable Trust before the M.P. High Court and upon his agreement, not only his black robes were arranged at the spot, but he was also briefed about the case in his car travel from the meeting place to the High Court for about half an hour. The counsels reached the Court in time and Mr. Palkhivala eloquently and in-depthly not only argued the case but brought success for the Company and took his Flight to Mumbai as already scheduled.

When Mr. Palkhivala was requested to send his bill for the professional charges and an blank cheque was offered to him, Mr. Palkhivala refused to take professional fees from the Charitable Trust and asked the Company to donate the amount for charitable purposes.

Such was the humanitarian, selfless & Aparigrahi approach of the highest tax lawyer.

Tax itself, as we all know, is a cost of civilization which every citizen of the country has to pay for the welfare of the country and public, therefore, to some extent payment of tax itself comes within the definition of relinquishment or APARIGRAHA as you have to part with your income, to be given to the Government for benefit of public at large.

Mr. Nani Palkhivala led the team of tax lawyers in India for a large number of years and possessed the gift of eloquence and in depth knowledge of the tax laws with imaginative arguments. It is a matter of history, and his perception of what tax means can be read from his famous commentary on income tax laws, which still adorns the libraries of almost all tax lawyers of our country. What one should learn form an eminent person like Mr. Nani Palkhivala is that human life, which has been bestowed upon us by the Almighty, has to be utilized for the benefit of others. We call it Paropkar and for doing paropkar, unless we adopt the concept of aparigraha by giving up our personal belongings and possessions, we cannot achieve salvation. In fact aparigraha is the concept of delimiting not only one's needs, but also possessions and resources to satisfy those needs, 'Do not indulge in excess' is the core theme of aparigraha; bare minimum required for living and giving the excess for the benefit of others is the main message of aparigraha.

One of the main lessons of Tīrthaṅkara Mahāvīra, the 24th 'God' of the Jains, besides propounding the principle of ahīṁsā also propounded the principle of aparigraha. Mahāvīra walked this earth more than 2600 years ago and still - and possibly perennially for all times to come - his teachings would remain relevant, opportune and necessary for leading peaceful and meaningful human life but what in the present days Mr. Nani Palkhivala said and led by example is really equally fruitful for one to understand.

The industrialists, businessmen and all citizens of the country, those who make earnings are expected to pay their due tax liability honestly and correctly and adopting the principle of aparigraha through which one can achieve the salvation or moksha.

Though Mr. Nani Palkhivala was a tax and constitutional expert lawyer, he was also such a great human being that from the various anecdotes & stories narrated in his books like We the Nation, We the People and Constitution Defiled etc. one can get various examples of philosophy of aparigraha being lived by Mr. Nani Palkhivala and I wish the readers of this article to benefit a lot from that perspective of life.


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Title: Beyond Sustainable Economy
Author: Dr. Rudi Jansma, Dr. Sushma Singhvi
Publisher: Prakrit Bharati Academy

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  1. Aparigraha
  2. Body
  3. Indore
  4. Jodhpur
  5. Madhya Pradesh
  6. Mahāvīra
  7. Moksha
  8. Mumbai
  9. Pradesh
  10. Rajasthan
  11. Soul
  12. Tīrthaṅkara
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