Former Attorney General of India G E Vahanvati, 65, died in Mumbai on Tuesday evening after suffering a cardiac arrest. While Vahanvati had been unwell for some time, his condition was reported to have improved recently.
“Mr Goolam Vahanvati passed away at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Mumbai on September 2 at 5 pm. He had a massive cardiac arrest,” said Dr Ram Narain, chief operating officer at the hospital. Vahanvati is survived by his mother, wife, son and daughter.
Vahanvati, who served as the Attorney General of India from June 2009 to May 2014, resigned after the UPA lost the elections. He was setting up a new office in Delhi to start his practice in the Supreme Court again. Vahanvati was also the Solicitor General between 2004 and 2009, during the UPA-I regime.
As Attorney General, he represented the government in many high-profile cases, including those related to the allocation of coal blocks, Italian marines, Rajiv Gandhi assassination, Kudankulam nuclear plant and FDI policy.
Vahanvati also served as the Advocate General of Maharashtra from December 1999 to June 2004. In 2004, he was appointed by the International Cricket Council to probe the allegations of racism in Zimbabwe. He was also appointed as a single member commission to probe the charges of racial abuse, as alleged by South African cricketers during their tour of Australia in 2005.
Born on May 7, 1949, Vahanvati was an alumnus of St Mary’s School and St Xavier’s College in Mumbai. He studied law at the Government Law College and started his legal career in the early ‘70s.
“I saw him argue his first case. Even in the most difficult cases, he would find an easy solution. Sometimes, juniors get a lot of flak from Judges, but he would handle every situation politely… He went on to hold the highest legal position in the country. He was an outstanding lawyer,” said senior counsel Rafiq Dada, former president of the Bombay Bar Association.
“I am really shocked, distressed and saddened to hear about his death,” said senior counsel Iqbal Chagla.
“I am at a loss of words. He guided my entire career. He was one of the most brilliant lawyers I have seen. His memory was phenomenal. He had 30 to 40 cases everyday, but would almost instantly recall the details of every case. I have not seen anyone so hard-working and sharp-minded,” said senior counsel Dinyar Madon, who assisted Vahanvati in the early days of his career.
“Young lawyers would stand in court and listen intently when he argued so that they could observe and learn. I was fortunate to assist him in a few cases. His death is a great loss to the legal fraternity,” said V B Konde-Deshmukh, executive committee member of the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa.
His friends and family remember Vahanvati as a man with diverse interests. He was known to like horse-racing and Cuban music of the 1950s. He had a rock music collection featuring Led Zeppelin and Jim Morrison. He was also a foodie and shared his culinary skills by contributing to columns for food recipes in various magazines.
“Law was his passion, but that was not all. He had an awesome collection of music. He also liked to cook and collect different kinds of pens. He was a voracious reader and he would write on things other than law,” said a senior counsel requesting anonymity.