Category Archives: Notable Zoroastrians

NANI ARDESHIR PALKHIVALA (1920-2020) A tribute on his birth centenary

A tribute on his birth centenary – by Marzban Jamshedji Giara

Nanabhoy Ardeshir Palkhivala popularly known as Nani was born on 16th January 1920 at Bombay in a middle class Parsi family. He was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. His father used to fix “palkhis” namely palanquins to be fitted with horse carriages. Hence the surname Palkhivala.

From childhood he was afflicted with writer’s cramp and a terrible stammer which he overcame by sheer will power. He became one of India’s foremost speakers. He studied at Master’s Tutorial High School where he was a brilliant student. He passed M.A. in English Literature from St. Xavier’s College, Bombay. He married Nargesh Matbar who was also a lawyer in 1945. They had no children.

He joined the Chambers of the legendary Sir Jamshedji Kanga in 1943. He stood First Class First in the first and second LL.B. exams in 1943 and 1944 from Government Law College.  In 1946 he stood first in every single paper in the advocate (original side) examination of the Bombay High Court. At a very young age he was offered a seat on the Supreme Court directly from the Bar which he declined. He was a Fellow of the Government Law College from 1944 to 1946, a faculty member from 1949 to 1952 and later Honorary Professor. He was also appointed the Tagore Professor of Law at Calcutta University.

His forte was in the areas of constitutional law, taxation and company law, individual freedom and enterprise and economic affairs. His rise in the profession was meteoric. He rose to become one of India’s foremost legal luminaries. He combined eloquence with wisdom, sincerity with versatility vision with achievement.  He was unsurpassable for sheer advocacy, clarity of thought, coupled with precision and elegance of expression, impassioned plea for the cause he espoused, excellent court craft and an extraordinary ability to think on his feet rendered him an irresistible force. He took up in the Supreme Court the Privy Piurses Case, the Bank Nationalisation Case in 1970 and Kesavananda Bharti Case on Fundamental Rights in 1972-73. He also represented India in three cases in international fora.

He was an authority on income tax, an advocate par excellence, a diplomat, an economist, a write and public speaker gifted with phenomenal memory who delighted his audiences. He was the conscience keeper of the nation. He was a severe critic of the taxation and budget policies of the Government of India and a champion of private enterprise. He was a voracious reader, a prolific writer and a perfectionist.

His annual budget speeches started in 1958 in a small hall at Green’s Hotel. These became so popular throughout India that Brabourne Stadium had to be booked for an audience of over 1,00,000 in 1992 which listened in pin drop silence – a one man public education effort on economic affairs.

His outstanding quality was the willingness to help people in need. He made frequent anonymous contribution to charitable causes. His rare quality was humility and modesty. Like most Parsis he had a good sense of humour and could laugh at himself. He walked with Kings and yet not lost the common touch. He was a Man of All Seasons who bestrode the world like a colossus.

The Janta Government appointed him as India’s ambassador to the United States from September 1977 to July 1979.

In the 1980s Nani and Nargesh donated one building at Godrej Baug, a Parsi colony managed by Bombay Parsi Punchayet.  In 1987 Nani organized a function at Bombay House auditorium and released the third volume of Dr. Bahman Surti’s “Shah Namah of Firdaosi in English Prose.” He also interviewed him on All India Radio.

Mr. K. B. Dabke wrote in the Mumbai Samachar on 15th January 1995 an article entitled “To Nani With Love” on his 75th birthday: “Amongst the contemporary eminent jurists who have distinguished their presence at the Bar and Boardroom of corporate world alike Mr. N. A. Palkhivala ranks as the first. If transparent integrity is his calling card, an art to communicate is his forte. Gifted with an enquiring mind, penetrating intellect and photographic memory.”

Important dates

. Member of the First Law Commission in 1955 and Second Law Commission in 1958.

. 1975 – Elected an Honorary Member of the Academy of Political Science, New York- in recognition of his “outstanding public service and distinguished contributions to the advancement of political science.”

June 1978 – Conferred the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws by the Princeton University, New Jersey (U.S.A.) describing him as “defender of constitutional liberties, champion of human rights, teacher, author and economic developer”

April 1979  – Conferred the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws by the Lawrence University, Wisconsin, U.S.A.

1982 – Nominated by the chancellor (the Governor) as a Member of the Senate of the University of Bombay.

March 3, 1993 – Honoured as “Person of the Year Award” by the Limca Book of Records.

November 1996 – Presented an award with the Scroll of Honour in Mumbai by the Navsari Parsi Association in great appreciation of his “magnificent work in promoting Human Rights, Fundamental Freedoms, an Unfettered Press, Political Science as an Author, Constitutional and Taxation Expert, an Economic Developer, and promoter of Social Welfare.”

1997 – Dadabhai Naoroji Memorial Award

January 1998 – Conferred the Degree of Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) by the University of Mumbai. This degree was conferred “as a mark of the University of Mumbai’s high esteem and appreciation of his contribution to the people at large.”

January 1998 – Conferred the “Padma Vibhushan” by the President of India.

March 17 1998 – On his being conferred the Padma Vibhushan, the Bombay Parsi Punchayet, the World Zoroastrian Organisation and the Parsi community felicitated Mr. Palkhivala at a grand function on the lawns of Cusrow Baug, Colaba, when he was presented with an award and a Scroll of Honour which read: “In sincere tribute to your many years of selfless, devoted and faithful service and mindful of the affection and esteem in which you are held by the common man in India and by the Parsi Zoroastrians all over the world.”

February 4 , 2000 – Conferred the degree of Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa)  by the Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Chennai.

Activities outside the sphere of work

Trustee of several charitable trusts to help those in genuine need.

Chairman, Oriental Heritage Trust founded in 1984 which funded the film On Wings of Fire.

Chairman since 1966, A. D. Shroff Trust.

Chairman, Lotus Trust

President of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal Bar Association, Bombay

Associated with Forum of Free Enterprise from 1960 being its President from 1968 upto February 17, 2000 and later President Emeritus.

Chairman of The Leslie Sawhney Programme of Training for Democracy which trains people in democratic leadership.

In June 1977, he founded ‘The Jayaprakash Institute of Human Freedoms.’

President of the Federation of Blood Banks.

He was the Vice President of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. He donated every year 10% of his net income to Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan for its Sadachar Bharat work. He donated crores of rupees to Sankara Netralaya, Chennai.

Associations with Companies

Chairman Emeritus – (A.C.C.) Associated Cement Companies Ltd. He was its Chairman from 1969 to 1998 and was also Chairman of several overseas companies.

Director of Tata Sons Ltd., Tata Iron & Steel Co. Ltd. (TISCO), Tata Engineering and Locomotive Co. Ltd. (TELCO),  Tata Infotech Ltd., Tata Energy Research Institute, Indian Hotels Co. Ltd., National Organic Chemical Industries Ltd. (NOCIL), Press Trust Of India Ltd.

He passed away on 11th December 2002 aged 82 at Mumbai. C. Rajagopalachari, Free India’s first Governor General said of him: “He was God’s gift to us. His passing away has left a dent in Indian humanity.”

A commemorative postage stamp of Rs.5/- was released by the Government of India on 16th January 2004 being Nani’s 84th birthday.

His nephew Mr. Homi Phiroz Ranina, an income tax expert and public speaker on the Union Budget has founded Jadi Rana High School at Sanjan and the school building is named after his illustrious uncle Nani Ardeshir Palkhivala Building.

Books by Nani Ardeshir Palkhivala

  1. New Patterns of Taxation, Bombay, Forum of Free Enterprise 1958.
  2. Recent Taxes in the Tax Structure, Bombay, Forum of Free Enterprise 1958
  3. Income Tax Bill Penalises Honest Tax Payers, Bombay, Forum of Free Enterprise 1961
  4. Privileges of Legislature, Bombay, Popular Prakashan,  1964
  5. Highest Taxed Nation, Bombay, Manaktala, 1965.
  6. Union Budget 1970-71, Bombay,, Forum of Free Enterprise, 1970
  7. Constitution and the Common Man, Bombay, Popular Prakashan, 1971
  8. A Judiciary Made to Measure: A Collection some of the Nationwide Protests against the Supersession of Justices Shelat, Hegde and Grover for the Office of the Chief Justice of India, Bombay, M. R. Pai, 1973
  9. Our Constitution Defaced and Defiled, New Delhi, Macmillan, 1973
  10. Fundamental Rights Case, the Critics Speak, Lucknow Eastern Book Co. 1975 by N. A. Palkhivala along with Surendra Malik (Eds.)
  11. Kanga nd Palkhivala’s Income Tax Law and Practice, Two Volumes, Bombay, Tripathi, 1976
  12. India Since Independence (First G. L. Mehta Memorial Lectures), Madras, 1978
  13. India’s Priceless Heritage, Bombay, Bhartiya Publications, 1980
  14. We the People: India, the Largest Democracy, Bombay, Strand Book Stall, 1984
  15. Enduring Relevance of Sardar Patel, 1992, (Sardar Patel Memorial Lectures), New Delhi, Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, 1993
  16. We the Nation, New Delhi, UBS Publishers, 1994

Books on Nani Palkhivala

  1. Nani Palkhivala – Selected Writings, L.M. Singhvi, M. R. Pai, and S. Ramakrishnan (Eds.), Mumbai, Viking/Bhavan’s Book University, 1999
  2. Nani Palkhivala – The Courtroom Genius by Soli J. Sorabjee
  3. The Wit and Wisdom of Nani A. Palkhivala by Jignesh R. Shah
  4. Nani A. Palkhivala A Life by M. V. Kamath 2005
  5. Nani A. Palkhivala A Role Model by Major General Narendra Kumar
  6. Nani Palkhivala God’s gift to India  by Dharmendra Bhandari
  7. The Legend of Nani Palkhivala by M. R. Pai
  8. Nani Palkhivala A Miscellany by Suresh Balakrishnan
  9. 100 Witty Quotes by Nani Palkhivala

A Festschrift in Honour of Nani Palkhivala


January 16, 2020 is the birth centenary of Nani Palkhivala. Every year, on this day, The Nani A. Palkhivala Memorial Trust organize an annual lecture by eminent persons. This year, along with the annual lecture, the Trust is releasing a festschrift in honour of Palkhivala.

An Advisory Board consisting of Justice Sujata Manohar, Justice S.N.Variava, Y.H. Malegam, H.P. Ranina and Arvind P. Datar collected contributions from several scholars, counsel, and colleagues and friends of Palkhivala. Mr. Datar is also the General Editor of this commemorative book. The festschrift contains articles on constitutional and other laws, economy and governance, and reminiscences of persons who knew and interacted with Palkhivala. The complete list of contributors is given below.
Festschrift in honour of Palkhivala

Festschrift in honour of Palkhivala

The festschrift also contains few articles written by Palkhivala in his youth. These were originally published in several periodicals between 1937 and 1947. This is followed by reproduction of selected letters and correspondences, and other documents like written submissions etc.

Title of the book: Essays & Reminiscences: A Festschrift in Honour of Nani A Palkhivala

General Editor : Arvind P. Datar

Publisher : LexisNexis

Launch date : January 16, 2020 at NCPA, Mumbai

Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal And Son Kaizad Felicitated With Karmaveer Puruskar Maharatna Award

On 26th November, 2019, our Community’s and India’s leading performer and activist, Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal and her son, Kaizaad Kotwal, were felicitated with the prestigious ‘Karmaveer Puruskar Maharatna Award’ in New Delhi, as part of a Rex and UN initiative. They received this honour for their great contribution to women’s empowerment in combatting violence against women and girls.

With her son, Kaizad, Mahabanoo established The Make-A-Difference Foundation in 2008, dedicated to the cause of battered and abused women as also individual victims of abuse, across all strata, irrespective of religion, caste and creed. The Foundation has done great work in the bastis of Dharavi. The Make-A-Difference Foundation has been created to raise awareness for and funds towards ending violence against women and children, across India. Through this foundation Mahabanoo has collaborated with luminaries including Eve Ensler, Oscar-winning actors – Jane Fonda and Marisa Tomei, and Bollywood personalities and artists – Farhan Akhtar, Zoya Akhtar, Imran Khan, Loveleen Tandan, Chitrangada Singh, Mansi Scott, Suchitra Pillai, Usha Uthup and others. The Foundation works at every strata of society with a variety of projects and program in urban schools and colleges, alongside economically disenfranchised women in the ‘bastis’ of Mumbai.

Speaking to Parsi Times, Mahabanoo said, “Apart from my work in theatre, I use the Arts to bring about social change and towards the empowerment of women, across the board. I have started a group called ‘The Empathy Meeting’, where women meet once a month. The tag line of this group is ‘Share, Support, Survive’. It’s a totally free group where there are absolutely no charges.”

A leading activist and a performer of great repute, Mahabanoo is an actor, director and producer in film, television, theatre and radio, with over 60 national and global credits to her name. A social justice advocate working diligently for women’s empowerment in ending violence against women globally, Mahabanoo has received numerous awards and honours in India and across the world, for her untiring efforts. In 2018, she received the inaugural ‘HER’ and ‘WOW’ (Women of Wonder) Awards for exemplary women achievers in various fields. In 2011, she received the prestigious Karmaveer Puraskar award.

As the owner of Poor-Box Productions, one of India’s premiere theatre companies, Mahabanoo has produced, directed and starred in some of India’s most critically acclaimed works and the longest  running shows in English and Hindi including Shirley ValentineArt(W)Hole In The Head! and now in its seventeenth year in India, The Vagina Monologues (in Hindi and English).

In August 2019, Mahabanoo directed 11 American women in ‘The Vagina Monologues’ to raise funds for three charities – ‘Rape Response’, ‘Centrepoint’ and ‘Adult Literacy’, with amateur actors. “The ‘Vagina Monologues’ will enter its 18th year of performance in 2020. I hope to open its Gujarati version early in 2020,” says Mahabanoo.

Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal And Son Kaizad Felicitated With Karmaveer Puruskar Maharatna Award

Oral History of Ratan Tata

This interview reflects the life history of Mr. Ratan Tata, former chairman of Tata Sons who took control of the Tata group of companies from his predecessor, Mr. JRD Tata, winner of the highest Indian civilian medal, and during his tenure of about 20 years, transformed it into the largest Indian Multinational with a growth of more than 50X in total revenue to $100 Billions. This is remarkable because Mr. Ratan Tata, through his leadership, changed the structure of the Tata Group of companies, overcoming resistance from senior executives, thrust the Group into High Technology domains and dramatically changed the international footprint while re-branding the name of the large Group. He achieved this while adhering to the high ethical values of the Tata legacy and won many prestigious international awards – Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Commander of the Legion honored by the French Government, among others. He serves on numerous Boards and continues to drive philanthropic initiatives, the true legacy of the Tatas. * Note: Transcripts represent what was said in the interview. However, to enhance meaning or add clarification, interviewees have the opportunity to modify this text afterward. This may result in discrepancies between the transcript and the video. Please refer to the transcript for further information –… Visit for more information about the Computer History Museum’s Oral History Collection.

Interviewed by Uday Kapoor on 2017-01-19 in Mumbai, India X8072.2017 © Computer History Museum

Serum Founder wins inaugural ‘Vaccine Hero’ award

Dr Cyrus Poonawalla congratulated for life-long commitment to boosting vaccine coverage in the world’s poorest countries.

MTR Vaccine Hero award

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Gavi Board Chair, and Dr Seth Berkley, Gavi CEO, present Dr Cyrus Poonawalla with the inaugural Vaccine Hero award at Gavi’s mid-term review in Abu Dhabi. Credit: Gavi/2018/Oscar Saykens.

Abu Dhabi, 11 December 2018 – Dr Cyrus Poonawalla, Founder of Serum Institute of India (SII) and Chairman of Poonawalla Group, has been given the first ever Vaccine Hero award by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

The Vaccine Hero award was inaugurated to celebrate global figures whose dedication to the Vaccine Alliance’s mission has played a key role in helping Gavi and its partners to protect hundreds of millions of children across the world

“Since Gavi’s inception Cyrus has been a steadfast supporter of Gavi’s mission,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “Under his leadership Serum has become the largest supplier of vaccines to the developing world, protecting hundreds of millions of children in the world’s poorest countries against killer diseases like measles, diphtheria and meningitis. Gavi simply would not have had the impact we’ve had without them. He is a worthy winner of this inaugural Vaccine Hero award.”

“I am truly humbled to receive this recognition for the humanitarian work that we have been doing at Serum Institute for the last five decades,” said Dr Cyrus Poonawalla. “it is recognition such as today’s that gives me and my team the strength to commit and continue the humanitarian work by making available immunobiologicals and vaccines at the most affordable prices to support the great efforts made by Gavi and other UN Agencies worldwide, especially now for much needed newer vaccines, such as Pneumonia, Rotavirus, Meningitis, HPV and Dengue.”

Dr Cyrus Poonawalla founded Serum Institute of India in 1966 and built it into the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by volume, supplying more than one billion doses of vaccines per year to children in 170 countries around the world at affordable prices.

SII now supplies 40% of the vaccines funded by Gavi. Over the Alliance’s 2016-2020 strategic period, SII will provide more than half a billion doses for Gavi-supported vaccine programmes protecting children against nine diseases – measles, rubella, meningitis A, rotavirus and, through pentavalent vaccine, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, Haemophilus influenza type B and hepatitis B.

The award was presented at a ceremony in Abu Dhabi as part of Gavi’s mid-term review, a high-level conference celebrating Gavi’s progress and impact in the world’s poorest countries. By the end of 2018, Gavi will have contributed to the immunisation of 700 million people and the prevention of more than 10 million future deaths. This has contributed to an acceleration in the decline of global under-five mortality rates and brought wider impact beyond immunisation.

As well as reviewing progress made since the last Gavi replenishment in Berlin in 2015, this high-level conference is also an opportunity to shape Gavi’s future and help overcome the challenges preventing children from receiving the full course of recommended vaccines. Immunisation is a cost effective and high impact intervention that is core to primary health care and provides a robust platform to deliver better health for all.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is supported by donor governments (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, the People’s Republic of China, Principality of Monaco, Republic of Korea, Russia, South Africa, Spain, the State of Qatar, the Sultanate of Oman, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and United States), the European Commission, Alwaleed Philanthropies, the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, as well as private and corporate partners (Absolute Return for Kids, Anglo American plc., The Audacious Project, The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, China Merchants Group, Comic Relief, Deutsche Post DHL, the ELMA Vaccines and Immunization Foundation, Girl Effect, The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers (IFPW), the Gulf Youth Alliance, JP Morgan, “la Caixa” Foundation, LDS Charities, Lions Clubs International Foundation, Majid Al Futtaim, Orange, Philips, Reckitt Benckiser, Unilever, UPS and Vodafone).

For more information click here.–vaccine-hero–award/

Exhibition of Parsi portraits at Ahmedabad

 Gujarat Mitra of Sunday 2nd December supplement on p.8 carries an article re exhibition of Parsi portraits of eminent Parsi men and ladies. Mr. Anil Relia, a serigrapher artist and collector of portraits is displaying his collection of Parsi portraits at Ahmedabad Gufa at Ahmedabad from 4th to 9th December. Parsi sethias of 19th century who went to China or Britain had their portraits made. Some of the portraits are by Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906). A portrait of Rustom-Sohrab of Shah Nameh fame made in 1620 will be on display. Water colour and oil paintings of famous Parsis will be on display. This exhibition brings alive glimpses of times past.(see attachment to view some portraits)

Marzban Giara

Lord Karan F Bilimoria: How I turned Cobra Beer into a Global Brand: Harvard Business Review November 2018

Please see the attached copy of an informative and inspiring article in the Harvard Business Review, November 2018 issue, by our patron Lord Karan F Bilimoria CBE DL titled; ‘How I did it: Cobra’s Chairman on turning an Indian Beer into a Global Brand’. 

Yours sincerely Malcolm M DebooPresident – ZTFE

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