Anil B. Divan died on March 20. His death will be mourned by all those who came in contact with him. He was sincere, honest, hard-working, quiet and sober, and a towering personality. Someone once said, “Tears are sometimes an inappropriate response to death. When a life has been lived completely honestly, completely successfully, or just completely, the correct response to death’s perfect punctuation mark is a smile.” Anil bhai, as he was popularly known, lived his life completely honestly, completely successfully and completely. As someone rightly said “Death never takes a wise man by surprise; he is always ready to go”, and he was indeed a wise man.
Ernest Hemingway once said, “Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.” Gandhiji once remarked, “Death is as necessary for a man’s growth as life itself.” Anil bhai, in life and death, held his head high. The late Justice Krishna Iyer, a great jurist and judge, in 1976 described the legal profession: “The rule of law cannot be built on the ruins of democracy, for where law ends tyranny begins. If such be the keynote thought for the very survival of our Republic, the integral bond between the lawyer and the public is unbreakable. And the vital role of the lawyer depends upon his probity. The central function of the legal profession is to promote the administration of justice. If the practice of law is thus a public utility of great implications, it obliges the lawyer to observe those norms which make him worthy of the confidence of the community in him as a vehicle of justice.”
Anil bhai possessed a conscience, not shaped by rigid rules of doubtful validity, but answerable only to a moral code. His conscience was governed by the rejection of self-interest and ambition. It was propelled by a consuming desire to play a leading role in the fair administration of justice, with a belief in seeking truth for the preservation of the rule of law. As a lawyer, Anil bhai was an epitome of virtues. Being courageous, plain-speaking, sound in law, impeccable in conduct and thorough in preparedness made him one of the most admired lawyers. He proved that the legal profession was indeed a noble one.
Anil bhai always stated correct facts before the court and would never, even indirectly, try and mislead it on either facts or the law. Judges heard him with great respect and showed due deference to his intellect and qualities. He commanded a huge private practice in virtually every field of the law. But it was his contribution in public law that set him apart from others. He willingly appeared pro bono in matters involving serious public issues, especially those involving probity in public life. He did not fear anyone and took on the mighty and powerful. The Jain Hawala diary case is a classic example.
He was a voracious reader and engaged in animated conversations within and outside court on public issues. His views were sober. His contribution to the development of the legal profession is noteworthy. As president of Law Asia and the Bar Association of India, he brought India on an international platform, creating a lasting image.
In his personal life, Anil bhai was a great human being. A husband who doted on his wife, Smita behen, and a father who took real pride in his three children — Gauri, Shyam and Vivek, their spouses, partners and kids. He never stopped raving about them when one talked to him about the family. To friends, he was truly dependable.
The nation, the judicial system and his family and friends will miss him immensely. But he will always be remembered, because, as T.S. Eliot once said, “Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.”Anil bhai’s journey ensures that we will never forget him.
The writer is a senior advocate and former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association