‘Op­po­nents feared Ram, judges were in awe of him’

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Nation -

OBy Kapil Sibal

n Sun­day morn­ing at 7.45 am, Ram Jeth­malani took a flight to his bene­fac­tor from the de­par­ture lounge of life. Born on Septem­ber 14, 1923, he died a few days before his 96th birth­day.

I re­mem­ber Ram in his many avatars. He was an ex­traor­di­nary lawyer with a ra­zor sharp mind who stooped to con­quer the many le­gal bat­tles he fought. He was a vo­ra­cious leader with a love for lit­er­a­ture. His daily rou­tine in­cluded a few games of bad­minton ev­ery evening and a drink there­after, dur­ing which he chat­ted with his friends who came to be en­er­gised by his vigour and love for life.

He ob­tained his LLB de­gree at the age of 17 and started prac­tis­ing law in his home­town in Pak­istan. With par­ti­tion, he moved to Bom­bay as a refugee and be­gan life afresh. With one paisa in his pocket, he stayed in a refugee camp for a few days and there­after charted his own destiny. He came to the spot­light as a lawyer when he as­sisted pub­lic pros­e­cu­tor C M Trivedi in framing ar­gu­ments in the fa­mous Nana­vati trial. He never looked back there­after.

It was a priv­i­lege for me when he ap­proached me some­time in 1986 to ar­gue a writ pe­ti­tion filed by him in a pro­ceed­ing against Swaraj Paul. I re­mem­ber him sit­ting by my side in­struct­ing me as I ar­gued that case. Since then, we be­came close friends. He al­ways treated me with great af­fec­tion.

The qual­ity that I most ad­mired in Ram was his com­mit­ment to the cause that he took up and his abil­ity to be fear­less in de­fend­ing that cause. Least con­cerned about what oth­ers might say, he al­ways fought to win. He was in­de­fati­ga­ble. His con­fer­ences as in the law, he was a po­lit­i­cal mav­er­ick. Since 1988, he con­tin­ued to be in the Ra­jya Sabha. He could change sides based on his chang­ing per­cep­tion of po­lit­i­cal par­ties. One could have never imag­ined that Ram would be a can­di­date against Atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee in the 2004 Lok Sabha elec­tion from Luc­know. He had en­tered pol­i­tics with the sup­port of the BJP and was very close to L K Ad­vani. Be­cause of his out­spo­ken na­ture and his crit­i­cism of stal­warts in the BJP, he was eventually ex­pelled from the party in May 2013. Eventually, BJP with­drew his ex­pul­sion re­al­is­ing that it is bet­ter to be­would start in the morn­ing friend him than to be the oband he would sit through the ject of his wrath. day putting to shame young He never gave up in delawyers who found it tirefend­ing his clients ex­cept on some. His mas­tery over facts one oc­ca­sion as coun­sel for and the Ev­i­dence Act was legSan­jay Dutt who was be­ing endary. His foren­sic abil­i­ties pros­e­cuted un­der TADA. He and orig­i­nal­ity of mind won made sev­eral un­suc­cess­ful athim ad­mi­ra­tion when­ever he tempts to get him bail. One stood up in court. The op­po­day, he held my hand and told nents feared him and me that may be, he is not lucky judges were in awe of for San­jay and that it might be him. He later de­vel­bet­ter if some­one else tried oped into a fine con­sti­his luck. That is how Dutt Satu­tional lawyer. heb asked me to de­fend his

He also had the abil­son. He al­ways be­lieved that ity to take up un­pophis client de­served to get ular cases. He de­fended Afzal re­lief from the court and Guru. Despite pub­lic sen­ti­would sel­dom come to terms if ment, he con­tin­ued to de­fend his client was de­nied re­lief. Manu Sharma in the Jes­sica That was the na­ture of his Lal mur­der case. He was un­com­mit­ment to the cause he fazed by crit­i­cism when derep­re­sented. fend­ing Har­shad Me­hta and He was a giant in the field Ke­tan Parekh in the stock of law. He charted his own market scams. Some of his course in life and stuck to the other fa­mous clients in­cluded prin­ci­ples that he be­lieved in. J Jay­alalithaa, Ja­gan­mo­han He measured oth­ers by the Reddy, B S Yediyu­rappa, Ram­yard­stick of val­ues that he dev and Asaram Bapu in the em­braced. He was un­con­venJodh­pur sex­ual as­sault case. tional in ev­ery sense of the Very few know that he did a lot word. It is be­cause he al­ways of pro-bono work. fought against the tide that he

He had a mer­cu­rial temwas of­ten mis­un­der­stood. He per­a­ment. He was a bun­dle of was a man with a golden heart af­fec­tion for those who he who savoured each mo­ment liked and a fierce life.en­e­my­fo­rofhis those who he thought harmed The writer is a se­nior him and his rep­u­ta­tion. Just advocate and Congress leader ➤ De­fended the as­sas­sins of for­mer PM Indira Gandhi

➤ De­fended the as­sas­sins of for­mer PM and Congress leader Ra­jiv Gandhi

➤ De­fended un­der­world don and smug­gler Haji Mas­tan

➤ De­fended the ac­cused in the Jes­sica Lall mur­der case

➤ De­fended Amit Shah in the Sohrabud­din mur­der case

➤ De­fended Lalu Ya­dav in the Bi­har Fod­der Scam case

➤ It was Jeth­malani’s ap­pear­ance in the Nana­vati case that brought him into the spot­light

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