In the passing away of Shri Ram Jethmalani, India has lost an exceptional lawyer and iconic public figure who made rich contributions both in the Court and Parliament. He was witty, courageous and never shied away from boldly expressing himself on any subject. Ram Jethmalani was the Union law minister and also the Urban development minister during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee led NDA government. He also served as the Supreme Court Bar Association president in 2010. We are all saddened by the passing of Ram Jethmalani, former Union Minister and a veteran lawyer. He was known to express his views on public issues with his characteristic eloquence. The nation has lost a distinguished jurist, a person of great erudition and intellect and a crusader in both law and politics he stood steadfastly for the causes he took up.
Feisty, ebullient, fearless, outspoken to a fault, uncaring of consequences or of societal norms, he had a large heart and a restive temperament. Always a crusader, his mind and body remained good almost to the end. In him we have not only lost a distinguished lawyer but also a great human who was full of life. Ram Jethmalani’s passing away is an irreparable loss to the entire legal community. He will always be remembered for his vast knowledge on legal affairs. His passing away is a great loss not only to the Bar in the country but also to Parliament and the country as a whole.
Ram Jethmalani, twice Law Minister, criminal lawyer, jurist, teacher, litigant and parliamentarian who relished the epithet ‘unchanged and unrepentant maverick’, passed away at 95. Jethmalani remains an enigma in modern times as he was a man who spoke and acted out of personal conviction. He felt that “I do not claim to be infallible but even my most trenchant critics would not deny that I speak and act out of personal conviction. I write also to stir debate and have the humility to retract my views when bested in such debates,” he wrote in Maverick Unchanged and Unrepentant.
When faced with barbs about his role as a defence lawyer for the powerful, Jethmalani stoically replied that he was serving the law as an officer of the court. The law allowed an accused to put forward his best defence. It was up to the courts to declare a person guilty. He defended the likes of Harshad Mehta, Ketan Parekh, underworld don Haji Mastan, the killers of former Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, BJP veteran L.K. Advani in the hawala scandal and headed Manu Sharma’s defence in the Jessica Lal murder case.
Jethmalani wrote that India’s progress did not require more mosques and temples. Controversies like a Ram temple in Ayodhya on the site of the Babri mosque must be totally outlawed. Instead, at the disputed site, a university of secular education and religious harmony should be established. It is a pity that we pride ourselves on being secular without giving such education to our youth.
Ram is fearless and forthright on occasions and too forthright. He is irrepressibly audacious with a sense of the dramatic. He has the gift of hitting the headlines but has a warm and golden heart. In politics he has gravitated through the whole spectrum and he believes in what Oliver Goldsmith wrote: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” He wears his heart on his sleeve. He will confront openly and attack directly. He will not stab anyone in the back. But these strengths and virtues are handicaps in Indian politics. As a result, he is a potent force in the Opposition, but uncomfortable on the treasury benches and many of his colleagues on the treasury benches become even more uncomfortable in his presence. His knowledge in criminal law was matched by none. It is a great loss to the country. R.I.P.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)