About Nirmal Hingorani

Nirmal Hardasmal Hingorani had a standing of nearly 70 years at the Bar as a constitutional lawyer and belonged to the pre-Partition era of lawyers who oversaw the development of constitutional law in independent India. Nirmal Hardasmal Hingorani was born in Larkhana, Sind on July 1, 1921. He was conferred the Bachelors of Law degree on February 11, 1944 from the S. C. Shahani Law College, Karachi, affiliated to the University of Bombay, and was admitted to be an Advocate of the Chief Court of Sind at Karachi on March 27, 1946 under the Indian Bar Councils Act of 1926.

From 1947 to 1952, Nirmal Hardasmal Hingorani practiced in courts as the Assistant Public Prosecutor for Sind, Karachi, and assisted the Government of Sind in resolving issues pertaining to the distribution of the water of the Indus River. Nirmal Hardasmal Hingorani was appointed by the Governor of Sind under the Sind Special Court of Inquiry Ordinance, 1948 as Special Counsel in the conduct of the first ever Commonwealth inquiry against a sitting chief minister - M. A. Khuhro, the then Chief Minister of Sind - on misconduct and corruption charges. He also appeared for Pir Ilahi Bux, the then Chief Minister of Sind, before the Election Tribunal in 1949.

On migrating to India in 1952, Nirmal Hardasmal Hingorani was enrolled in the Supreme Court of India at New Delhi. He was designated as Senior Advocate by the Supreme Court. At the time of his passing away on 21 July 2015, Nirmal Hardasmal Hingorani was the senior most lawyer in the Supreme Court.

Nirmal Hardasmal Hingorani initially worked with H. N. Sanyal, Solicitor General of India, and Niren De, Attorney General of India, and assisted C. K. Daphtry and M. C. Setalvad, Attorney Generals of India, in the Supreme Court. He appeared with Niren De in historic cases, such as the Bank Nationalisation Case and the Privy Purse Case. Later, too, he argued landmark cases before the Supreme Court in varied fields of law, such as taxation, labour law, customs law, election law, constitutional law and criminal law; a large number of which have been reported and have led to change of law. He helped draft the trust deed of the Bar Council of India, was the Standing Counsel for the Bar Council of India, and was appointed as an arbitrator in several matters.

The most important contribution in Nirmal Hardasmal Hingorani's practice as a constitutional lawyer has perhaps been the initiation and development of Public Interest Litigation in India. He, together with his late lawyer wife, Kapila Hingorani, initiated the unique remedial jurisprudence of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in India in 1979 with the Hussainara Khatoon's case (popularly known the Undertrial Prisoners' Case). This very first PIL case in India pertained to prisoners languishing in jail awaiting trial for cruelly long periods, at times exceeding the period they would have been in jail had they been tried, convicted and given maximum sentence. This PIL led to the reading of the fundamental right of speedy trial as being implicit in Article 21 of the Constitution of India and to the immediate release of about 40,000 undertrial prisoners. It was Nirmal Hardasmal Hingorani's novel idea to file the habeas corpus before the Supreme Court, based on press reports, on behalf of the undertrial prisoners who were unknown to him. He was the one who drafted the very first PIL petition and appeared, along with Kapila Hingorani, in the matter. While Kapila Hingorani is known as the mother of PIL, Nirmal Hardasmal Hingorani was its father.

He, along with Kapila Hingorani, handled nearly 100 PIL actions pro bono, which, in practical terms, provided relief to millions of people at their doorsteps. Each of these PIL actions were drafted by him. Several of the PIL cases have led to change of law and development of constitutional jurisprudence. These include the terrible case of Rudul Sah pertaining to his incarceration in jail for fourteen years after acquittal (the PIL in which the Supreme Court granted for the first time, under its writ jurisdiction of Article 32 of the Constitution of India, monetary compensation for the violation of a fundamental right); the horrific case of Bhagalpur Blindings by the police of suspected criminals using needles and acid; the inhuman treatment of mentally ill patients in Ranchi Mental Hospital; starvation deaths and immolation bids by public sector employees of State Corporations in Bihar due to the non-payment of salaries for periods as long as a decade. Other PIL actions related to leprosy patients, thresher victims, bonded labour, child sexual abuse, employment of children in carpet industries, women discriminated in personal laws, workers of slate pencil manufacturing industries dying at a young age due to accumulation of soot in their lungs, dowry victims, victims of police brutality, sexual exploitation of tribal girls in public sector units, 60 million people suffering from goitre due to lack of iodised salt, devdasis, sati victims and many other disadvantaged sections of society.

Nirmal Hardasmal Hingorani wrote extensively on controversial legal issues and has several publications, some of which are being edited in the form of a book. He was in the midst of authoring a book on the working of the Constitution of India over the last 65 years.

The lineage of Nirmal Hardasmal Hingorani can be traced to the royal family of the then princely Indian state of Jaisalmer. It is widely believed that, fearing persecution, his ancestor, Diwan Khiomal (and the younger brother of the issueless Raja Rawal of Jaisalmer) had sent his son Diwan Sukhanand Khiomal to Sind.

Diwan Rangomal, son of Diwan Sukhanand Khiomal, held high posts with the then rulers of Sind, the 'Kalhoras' at Khudabad, around 1759, and had three sons, Idanmal, Kherajmal and Thawardas. Diwan Banasing, the son of Diwan Thawardas, was a renowned judge in Tharoo Shah, Sind.

Hardasmal Banasing Hingorani, son of Diwan Banasing, graduated from St Xavier's College and Government Law College, Bombay, and entered the Sind Judicial Service. After serving as a judge, he became the Law Secretary to the Government of Sind. Hardasmal Banasing Hingorani went on to become the Chairman of the Sind and West Pakistan Public Service Commission from January 11, 1948 to October 3, 1956. Before migrating to India, he was awarded the civilian honour of the "Tamgha" by the then President of Pakistan, General Mohammad Ayub Khan, on October 22, 1959. Hardasmal Banasing Hingorani married Rochi Devi, daughter of Diwan Man Singh of the then princely Indian state of Khairpur (Khayrpur), which was adjacent to the then princely Indian state of Jaisalmer. Nirmal Hardasmal Hingorani was the eldest son of Hardasmal Banasing Hingorani and Rochi Devi.

Nirmal Hardasmal Hingorani passed away at New Delhi on July 21, 2015 at the age of 94. He is survived by his three children, Priya Hingorani, Dr. Aman Hingorani, and Dr. Shweta Hingorani, all lawyers having their independent standing; his daughter-in-law, Dr. Manni Hingorani, a reputed ENT Surgeon; and his grandson, Aryaman.