Ram Jethmalani, born in Shikarpur, Sindh on September 14, 1923, started his practice in Karachi before moving to Mumbai postpartition. Throughout his career in politics and law, Jethmalani raked up one controversy after another. He would take up high-profile cases that many other prominent lawyers would loath to accept. He was also known for his sharp remarks. During his days in BJP, he would never hold back on criticising his own party. Jethmalani fought RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s case in the fodder sc.
Ram Jethmalani, who spent over seven decades in Bar, argued scores of high-profile cases varying from criminal to constitutional matters besides economic and commercial disputes, emerging as a “roaring tiger” in black robes when it came to defending his clients.
Ram Jethmalani was a Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha), Senior Advocate (Supreme Court of India) and an eminent professor of law. He served as India’s Union Law Minister and as Chairman of Bar Council of India. As a lawyer, he represented a sweep of cases from the high-profile to the controversial for which he faced both accolades and severe criticism.
Ram Jethmalani, known as a maverick lawyer with many distinctions to his credit, obtained a law degree at an early age of 17 and started practising law in Karachi until the partition of India. The partition led him to move to Bombay as a refugee and he began his life afresh with his family. He first married Durga, at the age of eighteen, and later Ratna Shahani, who was herself a lawyer, in the year 1952. He has two sons and two daughters, of whom, Mahesh Jethmalani and Late Rani Jethmalani are also well known lawyers.
He was elected a member of parliament in 6th and 7th Lok Sabha on a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ticket from Bombay. He has served as Law Minister of India and also as Minister of Urban Development during the Prime Ministership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee against whom he later contested in General Elections of 2004 from Lucknow constituency.
He was a well known face amongst the legal community in India. Even though he was primarily known as only a criminal lawyer, he appeared in many important cases concerning constitutional matters. On 7 May 2010 he was elected to be the President of Supreme Court Bar Association. He was also the Professor Emeritus of Symbiosis Law School, Pune; and has also served as the Chairman of the weekly newspaper ‘The Sunday Guardian’.
He published many books, namely ‘Justice Soviet Style’, ‘Big Egos Small Men’, ‘Conscience of a Maverick’, ‘Maverick: Unchanged, Unrepentant’. He also wrote books on various law subjects such as Private International Law, Media Law and Conflict of Laws. He also has two biographies written after him, ‘Ram Jethmalani: An Authorized Biography’ by Nalin Gera; and ‘The Rebel’ by Susan Adelman.
He died six days before his 96th birthday. Ram Jethmalani had not been keeping well for the last few months, his son Mahesh said. His last rites will be performed this evening at the Lodhi road crematorium in Delhi.
Several BJP leaders including Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visited Mr Jethmalani’s home this morning to pay their last respects. PM Modi also met Mr Jethmalani’s family in the afternoon to express his condolences.
“Ram Jethmalani ji’s passing away is a irreparable loss to the entire legal community. He will always be remembered for his vast knowledge on legal affairs. My condolences to the bereaved family. Om Shanti Shanti Shanti,” Mr Shah wrote on Twitter. Mr Jethmalani was Amit Shah’s lawyer in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh alleged fake encounter case.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal paid tribute to the veteran lawyer on Twitter.
“Extremely saddened at the passing away of legendary lawyer Ram Jethmalani ji. An institution in himself, he shaped criminal law in post-independence India. His void would never be filled and his name will be written in golden words in legal history. RIP Ram sir,” Mr Kejriwal wrote.
“India has lost an exceptional lawyer and iconic public figure who made rich contributions both in the Court and Parliament,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on Twitter, remembering the legal veteran. “He was witty, courageous and never shied away from boldly expressing himself on any subject,” PM Modi said.
In another tweet, PM Modi said: “One of the best aspects of Shri Ram Jethmalani Ji was the ability to speak his mind. And, he did so without any fear. During the dark days of the Emergency, his fortitude and fight for public liberties will be remembered. Helping the needy was an integral part of his persona.”
He is survived by his son Mahesh, also an eminent lawyer who dabbled in politics as well. He has a daughter who lives in the US. The death of his other daughter Rani a few years back had shaken him.
Ram Jethmalani Biography and Profile (Ram Jethmalani)