Lodhi Road, New Delhi
Lodhi Road, New Delhi
Motilal was a worthy son of a worthy father Chimanlal. He not only inherited all the virtues of his great father but also multiplied and refined them to higher planes. Towards the declining years of his life, Chimanlal had the satisfaction of seeing his eldest son tread in his professional foot-steps, and distinguishing himself by his mental powers and forensic ability, which in the end enabled him to rise to the highest rung of the legal ladder, culminating in his appointment first as the Advocate General of Bombay and later as Attorney General for India. The son gave early promise of a brilliant future at the Bar.
A few characteristic qualities of Setalvad as an Advocate need a mention. He was blessed with a stentorian voice which was quite disarming for his opponents. He was invariably full of confidence at the Bar and had the habit of looking around in court during the course of his arguments. He never interrupted his opponents. His arguments were crisp and to the point and were not loaded with personal reminiscences and anecdotes. When Seervai mentioned something personal to himself during the course of the hearing of the RMDC appeals and writ petitions, Motilal made an audible remark that “these autobiographical references must stop”. He practiced the profession in a grand manner like an architect and not like a mason or a tradesman operating on the law of demand and supply. His fees were reasonable and did not vary depending upon the stakes involved in a case. The most conspicuous trait of Motilal Setalvad’s advocacy in Court was his clarity of exposition and brevity. He never repeated an argument or over emphasized it. In the President’s Reference No. 1 of 1964 [(1965) 1 SCR 413], Chief Justice Gajendragadkar paid a tribute to him – “Mr. Setalvad who appeared for the Judges of the Allahabad High Court addressed to us a very able argument with his characteristic brevity and lucidity” (page 435). He had the most impeccable demeanour in court. He did not raise his voice or show any emotion or indulge in levity. No other Attorney General had the gravity which he had and which spontaneously commanded respect from the Bench. As a Law Officer he seemed to have instinctively grasped the true function of a Law Officer which is stressed in English Courts viz., “Counsel for the Crown neither wins or loses. He is there to state the law and facts to the Court”. Setalvad did precisely that.
 P.B. VACHHA, Famous Judges, Lawyers and Cases of Bombay, p. 153
 Source – SOLI J. SORABJEE, Senior Advocate and Former Attorney General for India
 Source – T.R. ANDHYARUJINA, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court and Former Solicitor General of India.