Ashok Desai, an Inspiration and Example for Generations of Lawyers to Come

The president of the Supreme Court Bar Association pens a heartfelt, personal tribute to the former attorney general of India.

India, in general, and the legal world, in particular, became poorer with the passing away of Ashok Desai, fondly called Ashokbhai by all.

A legend in legal circles, he was a former attorney general of India, solicitor general of India, and advocate general of Maharashtra. As a senior advocate, he was admired by all in the legal world.

In more than one sense, Ashokbhai was a spiritual philosopher, possessed of unselfish Love and chittshuddhi (the cleansing of the heart).

There are very few people in life one can come across like him – ever so smiling, ever so helpful, ever so kind, ever so loving.

As a lawyer, he was simply one of the most outstanding of all. Extraordinarily brilliant, very well prepared in law and facts, extremely polite to the bench and to his opponents. Yet, with his fair presentation in a very soothing voice, he could win over both the bench and the bar. Also, as a human being, he was highly accomplished. Possessed of noble virtues derived from his great parents, highly educated, extremely well-read and well informed and widely travelled, Ashokbhai was an intellectual of a very high order. A great speaker and a patient listener, that made him an extremely enjoyable conversationalist, full of wit and information. Evenings spent with him would be treasured for a lifetime.

He had a very deep love for humanity and the nation. He never missed reminding all who knew him about what was right and what was wrong in public life. His observations and remarks were a good guide to understanding the state of the nation.

His humour in such conversations was lethal and apt. He could regale friends for hours with his stories from a lifetime’s experiences.

Ashokbhai had a deep understanding of religions and was highly spiritual. He followed the tenets of Buddhism and practised them in his own life. His beliefs were never dogmatic or rigid, but moderate and humane.

His life journey is a classic example of what was said once, “Do not seek death… Death will find you… But, seek the road which makes death fulfilment.”

He passed away peacefully and gracefully, Monday morning. Even in death, he chose the Buddhist path of renunciation. But, Ashokbhai will never be forgotten. His life and work will be an example for generations of lawyers to come.

He leaves behind his wife, Suvarnaben, also an accomplished human being in her own right and a true life-time partner, his sons, Jai and Harsh, daughter Ami, and grandchildren on whom he doted.

He also leaves behind a large number of friends and admirers who will never forget him for all that he gave them.

For my wife Ami and me, Ashokbhai was a source of nourishment in our lives, and a constant friend, philosopher and guide.

As Tagore famously said, Ashokbhai’s, “Life was beautiful like summer flowers and death like autumn leaves.”

May his soul rest in eternal peace.

Dushyant Dave, senior advocate and president, Supreme Court Bar Association.

This article originally appeared in Bar & Bench and has been edited lightly and republished with the author’s permission.