Legal Luminaries


“I will always be on the side of truth and justice”

One of the most noted criminal lawyer in the country, human rights activist and Member of Rajya Sabha, Majeed Memon’s journey up the ladder has been a hard climb. From founding a firm, MZM, and arguing high-profile cases, Memon has stuck to his core belief, “for me winning or losing a case is not a lawyer’s skill. A lawyer’s job is to help the court deliver justice.”

Memon did B.A. from R.D. National College, University of Mumbai (1969), and then Bachelor of Law from Government Law College, University of Mumbai (1972). He joined the Mumbai Bar in 1973. “During my 40 years of professional career in the Bar, I have got opportunities to handle high-profile cases not only in India but also abroad. I have handled cases in the UK, USA, UAE, South Africa and Portugal,” says Memon, who has also been part of the Nationalist Congress Party for the last seven years. He has been conducting successful defense in numerous high-profile trials.
In 1999, he contested for a Lok Sabha seat, on Samajavdi Party’s ticket, “but I lost,” he smiles, not a trace of disappointment on his face.

Looking back in time, he was just 10 when he lost his father Haji Ahmed. He lived with his family in Mahim in a municipal block and studied at an Urdu medium school. It was a humbling time for the child. “I always saw my mother, Aisha, struggle to make ends meet. I have six sisters and one brother,” says Majeed. “My brother died 20 years ago.” Circumstances gave him a burning desire to become a lawyer.

In 2005, someone tried to shoot Memon while he was leaving from his home for the court. The bullet hit the car, but his life was saved. After the Mumbai riots there was a meeting held at the SNDT grounds where lawyers, politicians and social workers had come to address the crowd. Most people gave a speech. When it was his turn, he narrated a poem written by him, ‘Dehshad Gardi.’ His book, Saya-e-Gul is a collection of his poetry.
His single passion has been poetry since childhood. Memon participated in many school functions, in extempore contest and debates. His book, Saya-e-Gul, was first written in Urdu; later the Hindi version was released by Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari. The foreword has been written by Naushad sahib. “Before his death, Naushadji wanted me to write a poem for his latest film, but somehow I could not take out time from my busy schedule and sit with him to compose a few lines,” he says regretfully. “I am close to actor Dilip Kumar also. Dilip da stayed for my son’s wedding for seven hours at a stretch, from the start of the nikah ceremony till the end.”

During his college days, he was popular for his poetry. His poems covered a significant part of the walls of his undergraduate college and the Government Law College where he studied law over the years, he learned to speak English as well. But he feels sad at the fact that regional languages are losing their charm. He says, “I am proud of Urdu and it is my being. I want Urdu to survive. We don’t know what we are losing.” For him, life is unshakeable and he recites a couplet, Zindagi ajm se kayam hai, varna aye majeed maut paspai ki soorat me kai bar aai. (Life is based on determination; else one would have died with each failure.)

A little hesitant and shy when talking about his wife, Saeeda, he shares, “I met her in Cochin where I often visited Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer. I learned a lot from him. She was Mary then, a Christian, and her father was a farmer. After a few meetings, I knew I wanted to share my life with her. My family initially objected but later accepted my decision. She was a Christian, but converted to Islam. We got married in 1977. Saeeda is very religious; she does her namaz and also observes rozas for 30 days in the holy month of Ramzan. I am truly blessed. She has not only taken care of me and my family but also my extended family. Saeeda makes sure I donate 2.5 per cent of my income to zakat (charity). I can never thank her enough for the way she looked after my mother and still takes care of me and the family. I owe my success to Saeeda.”

He reminisces how at the birth of his son, Julfikar, Naushadji spoke the azan (call for prayer) in Julfi’s ear and blessed him. Both his sons, Julfikar and Zaheer, are also lawyers. “I started my law practice in Dharavi, one of the largest slums in the world. Even today my office in still there. It is my auspicious asset,” he talks humbly about his firm MZM. He remembers how he had rushed into the court to argue his first case. And he won it too.

“My classmates in law college were Goolam Vahanvati, Justice Hemant Gokhale, Justice Ajit Shah,” he recounts. On his vision and values, “I will always be on the side of truth and justice and that’s what I always tell my sons also. I also want to get back to writing. Allah has blessed me with everything but I wish my mother was here today to see this success. My mother always struggled; I wish she was here today.”

We acknowledge “100 Legal Luminaries of India” by Lalit Bhasin (Lexis). The multicolour coffee table book printed on art paper in Hardbound is priced at ` 5995/- and is available at Universal Book Traders, C-27, Connaught Place, New Delhi – 110001.

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