(This article has been republished from The Quint’s archives to mark Arun Jaitley’s first birth anniversary after his death earlier this year.)
As I left Mr Jaitley’s residence after paying my respects, many fond memories came rushing in. It is impossible to put them to words. Every generation produces brilliant lawyers and successful politicians; but very few of them possess the human qualities that he did. This set Mr Jaitley apart from the rest of his ilk.
He was a brilliant parliamentarian, a principled politician, and a raconteur par excellence, among other things. However, what set him apart from the rest was the fact that he was a man with a golden heart, who helped anyone and everyone in their hour of need.
This is a quality extremely rare in the times we live in. He was a friend, philosopher, mentor and guide to me, and I feel orphaned yet again, today. He reached out to many like me in the legal profession, who had no political connections whatsoever, and gave us the opportunity to grow and evolve in the profession.
‘Taught Us Some Important Lessons of Life’
In the process, he also taught us some of the important lessons of life. One such lesson was to conduct oneself with grace and dignity, and without malice and ill will.
He was brilliant as a lawyer, and his grasp of commercial, constitutional and intellectual property law among others, is what folklore is made of.
More importantly, he was extremely pleasant as an opposing counsel.
Never would he make a personal comment against his opponent, and it was truly a privilege and a pleasure to appear with and against him in several matters.
I recollect that when I was appointed Additional Solicitor General of India in the Supreme Court in 2014, I went to him for his guidance and advice on how to approach the various sensitive matters which would come my way. His only advice was –
“Do what you think is right, and do not let anyone ever pressurise you.”
A Great Promoter of Merit
I know as a matter of fact, he meant every word of it. This was because those were the principles he lived and died by. I have not known any other successful senior counsel who has done so much for his colleagues, chamber juniors, young members of the bar, and his staff. He was always a great promoter of merit and felt the need to encourage lawyers who didn’t have any godfathers in the profession.
There were times when some of us would joke with him that he was too decent for politics. We would object to him helping people in the legal fraternity and in politics, whose lack of value systems he did not approve of, at all. He would either remain silent and smile, or would tell us that when a person is in need, or is in trying times, one should reach out and help if one can. That was the man, the persona of Arun Jaitley.
He enjoyed the finer things in life but never lost his moorings and bearings, and handled his wealth and professional success with utmost dignity.
Jaitley’s Legendary Love for Food
Many years ago, he was telling us in the court canteen that he was trying to lose weight. While telling us so, he polished off a few samosas and pakodas.
The man could speak on any subject, and I recollect, once, at the launch of a cookbook, he regaled the audience for an hour with an extempore speech dedicated to food, with special references to Burra kebabs and Dal Makhani. Such was his talent for storytelling.
He loved to hold court in court corridors and at dinner parties. People would invariably gather around him to listen to his anecdotes, which were always interesting and full of wit and humour.
He was a fantastic people’s person.
His presentation of arguments in court was a lesson for every student of law. He was meticulous, well prepared, articulate and original. But above all, he possessed an extremely pleasant and respectful demeanour. Yet, he never shied away from calling a spade a spade and putting his point across very firmly, but without any rancour or venom.
He strode the corridors of the Supreme Court like a giant. As young lawyers, if we were arguing, and he happened to be in court, he would just proudly give us a smile or a light pat on the back which meant so much to us.
The impeccable integrity that he possessed and with which he conducted himself in his public and his private life, is a lesson for generations to follow.
Nothing hurt him more than an ill-founded and baseless allegation on his integrity.
That is something which would hurt him deeply, and showed how important the virtues of honesty and integrity were to him.
On a philosophical note, I wonder at times, what the ways of God are that he takes away the good so early. On a personal level, I shall miss him terribly. The country and the legal profession have lost a brilliant lawyer, a great parliamentarian, and above all, a wonderful human being with great qualities of the head and the heart.
(The writer is a senior advocate at the Supreme Court of India. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)