BIOGRAPHY OF MR. RAM BOOLCHAND JETHMALANI

Ram Jethmalani was born on 14th September, 1923 in a place named Sikharpur in Pakistan. Mr. Jethmalani was born to Mr. Boolchand Jethmalani and Mrs. Parbati Boolchand who were both lawyers[1]. Since his childhood, Ram had been an excellent student and therefore his father and grandfather wanted him to become an engineer[2]. However, Ram became a lawyer out of his own will. Ram completed his matriculation at an age of 13 after which he started to pursue law from Bombay University with a first class distinction. As he passed his matriculation at an early age, he received a law degree at a mere 17. Interestingly, he was not allowed to start his practice due to the reason that the minimum age for a lawyer to start practice was 21. Nonetheless, he was subsequently allowed for the same after getting a resolution [3].

When he was into his practice, a giant roadblock was waiting for him. This was the unfortunate partition of India which caused religion-based riots on both sides of the border. Due to this serious issue, his law firm partner A.K. Brohi advised him to flee to India.

Consequently, he reached Mumbai where he had to stay in refugee camps for a few days [4]. Ram Jethmalani had two wives Durga and Ratna. His family, along with his both wives, included one son and three daughters. His son Mahesh and a daughter late Rani belong to the legal field [5].

Jethmalani was always known for his courage and straight-forwardness. He died on 8th September due to his prolonged illness. In addition to being a lawyer, his other professions included politician, jurist, professor of law and entrepreneur [6].


LEGAL CAREER

After coming to India his legal career began in an interesting manner. He fought his first case in India as a refuge for refugees. This case was fought in the Bombay High Court against the Bombay Refugees Act which treated the refugees in an inhumane manner. He was successful in getting the Act declared unconstitutional by the court[7].

Ram Jethmalani is said to be a lawyer for rich ones as his appearance can be traced in dozens of high-profile cases. In the sixties, he got a tag of ‘Smuggler’s lawyer’ as he defended several smugglers including Haji Mastan [8]. Ram was able to get the charge-sheet against Lal Krishna Advani in the Jain Hawala scam quashed. He was also involved in defending Harshad Mehta in the Stock market scam. In this particular case his straight-forwardness can be seen when he accused the then Prime Minister saying, “People don’t give human names to a scam but if a human name is to be given to a scam, it would not be Harshad Mehta scam, it would be P.V. Narsimha Rao scam.” – Mr. Ram Jethmalani in a press interview defending his client Harshad Mehta. [9]. He has appeared for defending Amit Shah in the infamous Sohrabuddin fake encounter case (2005).

Ram Jethmalani had also appeared in defence of Manu Sharma, accused in Jessica Lal Murder case. However he could not get his acquittal from the court [10]. In two very sensitive cases he had appeared for assassins (Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh) of the then PM of India Smt. Indira Gandhi, resulting in the acquittal of Satwant Singh and death sentence to Kehar Singh; and once again for the murderers of former PM Sh. Rajiv Gandhi. Furthermore, Jethmalani had defended the death sentence for the Parliament attacks (2001) convict terrorist Afzal guru. In addition to this he appeared for Asaram Bapu in Jodhpur sexual assault case (2013).

All these sensitive cases, by the time made him to be recognised as the ‘Devil’s advocate’.

In an interview Ram had said, “If your client tells you that he has committed an offence, it doesn’t give you a reason to refuse to defend him. People ask why a lawyer has to defend a person who tells him that I am guilty. The reason that a lawyer can very legitimately advance is that it is the society who has made a rule that no one should be punished or convicted without adequate convincing evidence. When you argue for a person who has told you in private that he has committed the offence, you are not taking an oath that your client is innocent. What you are telling the court is that the evidence on which my client is convicted does not satisfy the standards that you have led down. [11]” This shows the professional integrity of this person.

He was among the twelve lawyers who challenged the imposition of emergency by the Indira Gandhi government, in 1975. Apart from this he has served as the chairman of the Bar Council of India for four terms. In 2010, he became president of the Supreme Court Bar Association. Ram has also been a part-time law professor at Government Law College, Mumbai and also taught at Wayne State University, Detroit. Ram Jethmalani has authored some books namely, ‘Conscience of a Maverick’, ‘Big Egos, Small Men’, ‘Maverick: Unchanged, Unrepentant’ and also written several books in different legal topics.[12]

Ram bid adieu to his extraordinary legal profession by announcing retirement in September, 2017.


POLITICAL CAREER

His political career was no less enthralling than his legal career. Ram Jethmalani always gave his concern for corruption and black money. The commencement of his direct entry into the political arena took place when he contested election as an independent candidate from Ulhasnagar with support of Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party. However, he could not win the election [13]. Before it, he lived in Canada for some time in a self-imposed exile when an arrest warrant was issued against him because of the reason that he heavily condemned the imposition of National Emergency. He returned ten months after the emergency was revoked [14].

Ram Jethmalani had also formed his own parties namely, Bharat Mukti Morcha in 1987 and Pavitra Hindu Kazhagam in 1995 with the aim of achieving transparency in functioning of democracy[15].

Ram Jethmalani’s remarkable political journey can be observed by the fact that he had been the member of both the houses of the Parliament. Moreover, he worked as a minister a couple of times. He was a member of Lok Sabha in 1977 to 1984 and a three time member of Rajya Sabha in 1994 to 2006; 2006 to 2009; 2016 to 2019. In Atal Bihari Vajpayee government he was appointed the Minister of law and justice in 1996 and Minister of urban affairs in 1998. However, he could not complete his tenures either time.

His bitter relations with Bharatiya Janata Party showed up when he was expelled from the party for making anti-party statements.

In a nutshell, Ram Jethmalani was a very extraordinary lawyer. He had mastered the art of advocacy and never. He was never scared to take up a weak case. Jethmalani was a person who could speak his mind. He was a combination of wisdom, courage and dedication. His energetic personality even in his 80s always made him popular among youngsters. His seven decade long legal career has so much to inspire the legal enthusiasts.


References:

[1] Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ram_Jethmalani#:~:text=Ram%20 Boolchand%20 Jethmalani%20(14%20 September,the%20 Supreme%20Court%20 Bar%20Association.

[2] Stars Unfolded, https://starsunfolded.com/ram-jethmalani/

[3] Times of India, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/eminent-lawyer-and-former-union-law-minister-ram-jethmalani-passes-away/articleshow/71031346.cms

[4] Free Press Journal, https://www.freepressjournal.in/india/ram-jethmalani-death-anniversary-looking-back-at-life-career-of-former-union-minister

[5] Ram Jethmalani, http://www.ramjethmalanimp.in/about.html

[6] Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ram_Jethmalani#:~:text=Ram%20 Boolchand%20 Jethmalani%20(14%20 September,the%20 Supreme%20Court%20 Bar%20Association.

[7] SCC Online, https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2019/09/08/eminent-lawyer-and-politician-ram-jethmalani-passes-away-at-95/

[8] Economic Times, https://m.economictimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/ram-jethmalani-1923-2019-the-lawyer-who-pulled-no-punches-and-fought-hard-for-all-his-clients/articleshow/71041841.cms

[9] Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEdJsGDVkiE

[10] Times Now, https://www.timesnownews.com/india/article/from-indira-gandhi-assassination-to-jessica-lal-murder-10-cases-jethmalani-fought-in-7-decade-legal-practice/484758

[11] Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lj0X4efStw

[12] Ram Jethmalani, http://www.ramjethmalanimp.in/about.html

[13] Business Standard, https://www.business-standard.com/article/politics/ram-jethmalani-intellectual-dilettante-who-never-minced-words-119090800931_1.html

[14] Outlook, https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/india-news-ram-jethmalani-doyen-of-criminal-law-and-politician-with-colour/338160

[15] Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ram_Jethmalani#:~:text=Ram%20 Boolchand%20 Jethmalani%20(14%20 September,the%20 Supreme%20Court%20 Bar%20Association.



This article is written by Himanshu Sharma of IIMT College of Law, Greater Noida.

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