Tribute to Professor V.S. Mani – Some Personal Reflections

Guest Post By Tony Anghie

[Professor V.S. Mani passed away on August 22, 2016.  This is a solicited guest post by Professor Antony Anghie of the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore, who is a founder member of TWAIL (Third World Approaches to International Law)]
I first encountered Professor V.S.Mani very early on in my career. He was the legal advisor to the Government of Nauru and later, one of the very distinguished counsel, together with Professor Ian Brownlie and Professor James Crawford, to appear before the International Court of Justice to successfully argue Nauru’s Case. He had a unique role to play in the proceedings, not only because of his expertise in international adjudication-the subject of his first major book-but because he was involved in the dispute from the very beginning, from the time the Nauru Commission that explored the issues surrounding the Australian exploitation of phosphates in Nauru was created; he   was instrumental in ensuring that the Nauruan claim that was derided when it was first made, gradually assumed a formidable legal character that could be brought before the ICJ. He also appeared for India before the ICJ. 

Professor Mani was a prolific author who wrote with expertise and insight on a number of major topics of international law including humanitarian law, space law, and the Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States. His works presented the position of developing states with eloquence, rigour and a profound knowledge of the discipline. He was invited to give the Hague Lectures, among the greatest honours bestowed upon international lawyers, and testament to the international reputation he had won in the field. He chose to speak and write on the always controversial topic of Humanitarian Intervention as his subject. His erudition was immense and I was often startled by the depth and breadth of his knowledge of international law. No lawyer from a non-Western country has become a regular practitioner before the ICJ, but Professor Mani had all the qualifications and expertise and experience that would have enabled him to play this role with distinction. 
Professor Mani was elected to be the President of the Asian Society of International Law in 2011. This was a duty he undertook with a heavy heart, for it had been the hope of the whole Society that Professor Mani’s great teacher, Professor R.P.Anand, would preside over the biennial conference in New Delhi, but that was not to be. The task of organizing the Conference in New Delhi was not an easy one because of various unexpected obstacles. Professor Mani dealt with them all with his customary dedication and his considerable diplomatic skills, and thanks to him and his dedicated team of colleagues, the Conference was a great success. When I congratulated him on his achievement, with tears in his eyes he mentioned what all knew, that he had done it for his teacher. It is a shock then that he followed Professor Anand after such a short interval and that two great Indian international lawyers should leave us in a relatively short space of time.

As a person, Professor Mani was always gentle, kind and good humoured. His early passing is an immense loss to India and to the world of international law. 

[UpdateThis is a link to a review of Prof Mani’s book that Prof. Anghie refers to above, and here is a link to some of Prof Mani’s recent writings for The Wire].  

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