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Anil Divan was a senior advocate, constitutional expert and champion of public-spirited causes. With more than six decades at the bar, Divan was among India’s most respected legal minds. In Season 1 we will look at three of his most significant cases: the Jain Hawala PIL, the Cauvery water dispute and the National Judicial Appointments Commission case.


Host:  Raghu Karnad

Research and Writing:

Research Manager:  Ramya Boddupalli

Legal Researcher: Vipinn Mittaal

Scriptwriter: Ramya Boddupalli 

Script editor: Bhavya Dore

Fact checker: Vipinn Mittaal

Advisors: Lawrence Liang, Ranvir Singh, Shyam Divan and Vivek Divan


Head of Production: Shaun Fanthome

Creative Director: Mae Mariyam Thomas 

Producer: Abbas Momin

Producer/Sound Editor: Joshua Thomas

Production Assistant: Sakshi Nair

Sound Design & Mix: Kartik Kulkarni

Graphic Designer: Sephin Alexander


Host: Hello and welcome to Friend of the Court, a podcast series that explores groundbreaking constitutional cases in India’s judicial history. I am your host, Raghu Karnad. 

All landmark cases are entangled in their political and social settings. Urgent questions are often translated into legal and constitutional grammar by members of the Bar. This podcast examines the role of lawyers, judges and legal institutions - the hows and whys - in what we call constitutionalising

This is part of a legal history project undertaken by the School of Law, Governance and Citizenship in Ambedkar University Delhi in partnership with the Anil Divan Foundation. 

[clip introducing Anil Divan on a news show] 

Hello and welcome to this very special interview. Joining me today is the doyen of the Indian legal fraternity, Anil Divan senior advocate, constitutional lawyer, senior advocate at the Supreme Court and one of India’s best legal minds.


Host: In this season, we are diving into some of the most pivotal cases in Anil Divan's career, which spanned over six decades beginning in the 1950s and going right up to his demise in 2017. He was a part of many crucial legal battles, and watershed moments that shaped Indian history. At a celebration to mark 50 years of his practice at the Bar, Divan remarked on the role of lawyers in shaping society: 

[Clip from Anil Divan’s speech]


And today a lawyer can give much more to society because of the useful and creative role that he can play in many issues in Public Interest Litigations.

[Clip from Anil Divan’s speech]

But the case I remember the most is the Jain Hawala Case Vineet Narain v Union of India

[Clip of Ram Jethmalani from the show “Aap ki Adala”]

Ram Jethmalani: Advani saheb ke upar khud mukadma chal raha tha,  charges frame karne ke baad - Anchor: Ye aap baat kar rahe hain Jain Hawala case ki

Ram Jethmalani: Jain Hawala case ki. Aur LK Advani ne resign kar diya tha Parliament se

Host: The Jain Hawala case. The first major corruption public interest litigation the Supreme Court heard. Perhaps Mr. Divan’s most significant contribution. His role as counsel forever changed how it dealt with administrative corruption.


[News clip]

The Cauvery River Water Dispute has taken an ugly turn as protestors in Karnataka’s Mandya district vandalised the PWD office and raise slogans against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Tuesday.

[News Clip]

The Cauvery Dispute will once again be heard by the Supreme Court just weeks after it delivered its final verdict on the decades old water war.

Host: The Cauvery water dispute case where Mr. Divan represented the state of Karnataka for decades, in its water dispute with Tamil Nadu over the river Cauvery.


 [News clip]


On the one hand, the government has listed several drawbacks of the collegium system while on the other, the Supreme Court is wary of any move that could undermine the collegium system. The question arises then as to who should then appoint the judges.


Host: And finally the National Judicial Appointments Commission case or NJAC in which Mr. Divan increasingly took interest in the independence of the judiciary. He resisted the interference of the government in appointing judges and led the petition against the government. This resulted in the court eventually striking down the NJAC.  

Host: Anil Divan had an illustrious record of fighting for public causes, through which he developed public law. Divan is also remembered for his contributions to the law outside the courtrooms especially in his role as the President of the Bar Association of India and LAWASIA, an association of lawyers, judges and jurists advocating for interests and concerns of the Asia Pacific legal profession. He was also a member of the Committee on Judicial Accountability. 

Host: The legal Bar’s history, practices, techniques, knowledge and networks can be unpacked through Mr. Divan’s own life history. This is especially true of his contributions as Amicus Curiae, or Friend of the Court in numerous public interest cases. He was a natural in this role, bringing to it his creativity and fearlessness in addressing some of the most trying constitutional problems India has witnessed. 

Host: On this show, we are going to take you through a wealth of primary documents and notes on cases from Mr. Divan’s files, along with research and interviews with lawyers, petitioners and journalists involved in the cases both inside and outside the courts. Our hope is that through Mr.Divan’s work, you get to see how legal battles are fought in the Supreme Court to help forge political change.

This is ‘Friend of the Court’. Tune in next week as we begin with dissecting the Jain Hawala case. For now, we leave you with a few words from Anil Divan.

[Clip from Anil Divan’s speech]


Nani Palkhivala strikes an optimistic note when he says and I quote “In the affairs of nations as in the business of elements, winds shift, tides ebb and flow, the boat rocks, luckily, we have let the anchor hold. We have survived as a united democracy, a historic achievement.” The anchor in my view has been our Constitution and constitutional values.

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