Ram Jethmalani, one of India’s finest advocates and a former Union minister, passed away at 7:45 am on Sunday, 8 September, at his residence in Delhi. He was 95 years of age.
Jethmalani had been a six-time Rajya Sabha member and held the distinction of being the oldest and the youngest member of the Bar. At 17 years of age, he secured a law degree from the SC Shahani Law College in Karachi. At the time, the minimum age to practice law was 21, but an exception was made to allow him to start practicing at the age of 18.
The lawyer has handled several high-profile cases like the 1962 Nanavati Case, the Emergency during Indira Gandhi’s tenure, Indira Gandhi’s assassination case, Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination case and the Harshad Mehta scam case.
‘A Good Lawyer Who Was Popular With Unpopular Cases’
On Sunday, several lawyers and journalists took a trip down the memory lane to remember Jethmalani’s contributions, and tributes poured in on Twitter.
Senior lawyer Mukul Rohatgi said Jethmalani will always be remembered for some important judgments, adding, “He was a mercurial lawyer of great intellect. He was a very good lawyer and was popular with unpopular causes. He defended the killers of Indira Gandhi, Afzal Guru, and many other cases. He had a very varied career going from law to politics. His political career was not as bright. He started as an MP and was a minister. But then he had a fall out with the Vajpayee government, he fell out with the Modi government, etc. That was not a very successful career. But he will always be remembered for some important judgments.”
“Things ended with BJP on a good note. In fact if I may tell you, I’m aware of that case and I’m also aware that the late Mr Arun Jaitley played a big role in settling that case. Because Mr Jethmalani was at the end of his life and whatever it was, he was part of the Janata government in 1977. So Mr Jaitley emphasised to the leadership that it was better to bring an amicable end to the end of one’s life, and that is how it ended.”Mukul Rohatgi, Senior lawyer
‘Could Woo and Intimidate Judges in Equal Measure’
Senior advocate Rebecca John said, “in court he was magic.”
“Ram Jethmalani was the finest legal brain this country has ever produced . As a criminal lawyer I had the privilege of watching him argue the Parliament attack case for SAR Geelani in the Delhi High Court, which eventually led to the overturning of the conviction order and death sentence and the acquittal of Geelani. It was a master class on criminal law. During case conferences he would never trouble junior lawyers, he was unfailingly polite and encouraging. In court he was magic. He mesmerised, he was fearless. There was never any doubt, he knew better than most courts. I disagreed with his politics and many of his public positions but he was unquestionably the greatest criminal lawyer of our times.”Rebecca John, Senior Advocate
Senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai called Jethmalani a political gadfly and a legal master.
Lawyer Kamini Jaiswal termed Jethmalani the sharpest mind in criminal law.
“India has lost its tallest criminal lawyer. I cannot find anyone coming near him as far as criminal advocacy is concerned, for ages. He was the sharpest mind when it came to criminal law. He could have done much more for the criminal law perhaps by writing books and leaving a legacy for students of law, but unfortunately they have nothing of his to look forward to.”Kamini Jaiswal, Senior Lawyer
Advocate Menaka Guruswamy termed Jethmalani the finest criminal lawyer.
‘The Champion of the Undefendable’
Journalist Sumon K Chakrabarti praised Jethmalani’s contribution to law, saying that the senior advocate “mentored some of the best and the brightest.”