Noted criminal lawyer and former law minister Ram Jethmalani passed away on Sunday at the age of 95. He breathed his last around 7.45 am at his residence in New Delhi.
Jethmalani rose to become one of the most successful civil and criminal advocates in the country by taking up several politically sensitive cases. He represented those accused of killing former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, Harshad Mehta in the stock market scam, L K Advani in the Hawala scandal, Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case among others.
Here are some of his notable cases
Nanavati vs State of Maharashtra
In 1959, Commander Kawas Manekshaw Nanavati, a Naval Commander, was tried for the murder of Prem Ahuja, his wife’s lover, in what is a historic case in the annals of the judiciary. Ram Jethmalani led the prosecution. The High Court agreed with the prosecution’s argument that the murder was premeditated and sentenced Nanavati to life imprisonment for culpable homicide amounting to murder. On November 24, 1961, the Supreme Court of India upheld the conviction.
Amit Shah’s defence in Sohrabuddin fake encounter case
Jethmalani defended Home Minister Amit Shah in the 2005 Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, by alleging that the then UPA government led by Congress was using the CBI to falsely implicate the former Gujarat home minister. “The Centre had hatched a conspiracy with CBI to target Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his government and the first among them was Amit Shah,” Jethmalani had noted.
While Sohrabuddin and Kausar Bi were allegedly killed in a fake encounter by the Gujarat police in November 2005, Tulsiram Prajapati, it was alleged, was shot dead by the police in a similar encounter on December 27, 2006. Shah was the home minister and Narendra Modi was then chief minister.
L K Advani’s defence in Hawala scam
Jethmalani defended former deputy prime minister L K Advani in the Hawala scam in the early 90s, which pertained to payments made by politicians through hawala brokers in a $-18 million bribery scandal. Several political leaders, including Advani, Sharad Yadav and Madan Lal Khurana were accused in the scam. Jethmalani in 2015 had said that Advani won the hawala case because he had appeared for him.
Defence of Kanimozhi in 2G scam
Jethmalani defended DMK MP Kanimozhi in the famous 2G scam that rocked the UPA-II government led by Congress. Along with Kanimozhi, former telecom minister A Raja and others were acquitted in the case last year. The special court noting the judgement held that the prosecution “miserably failed” to prove the charges. The CBI had alleged there was a loss of Rs 30,984 crore to the exchequer in allocation of licences for the 2G spectrum, which were scrapped by the top court on February 2, 2012.
Defended Asaram Bapu in sexual assault case
The senior lawyer defended Asaram Bapu, who was arrested in 2013 on suspicion of sexually assaulting a teenager. In an interview to The Wall Street Journal, Jethmalani had said, “on facts, the case is very, very arguable. It is not an open-and-shut case and there are good chances that the case ultimately will not stand.” When asked why he would want to represent Asaram, Jethmalani had said, “My practice is of a different kind from other lawyers. I make tons of money at the bar, but I do it from 10% of my clients. Bapu is in the 10%.” In April 2018, Asaram was pronounced guilty of the rape charges and imprisoned for life with a fine of Rs 5 Lakh to be paid to the victim. Two of his associates were awarded 20 years imprisonment.
Represented Jayalalithaa in disproportionate assets case
Former Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha was convicted of misusing her office during her 1991–96 tenure, amassing wealth to the tune of Rs 66 crore. A judgement on September 27, 2014 in the Special Court convicted all the accused— Jayalalithaa, Sasikala Natarajan, Ilavarasi and V N Sudhakaran — and sentenced them to four years in prison. Arguing for Jayalalitha, Jethmalani pleaded for suspension of the sentence under Section 389 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Jethmalani cited the Lalu Prasad case in the fodder scam, in which he had appeared for the RJD leader, to press for bail for Jayalalithaa.
Manu Sharma in the Jessica Lall murder case
Jethmalani had defended Manu Sharma in the infamous 1999 Jessica Lall murder case. Manu Sharma, son of former Haryana Congress leader Venod Sharma, was accused of killing model Jessica Lall after she refused to serve him liquor at a south Delhi resturant. Sharma was acquitted by a trial court in 2006, leading to a huge public outcry. Many, including Jethmalani’s daughter Rani Jethmalani, had criticised him for defending Manu Sharma. However, the lawyer went on to defend Sharma in the High Court as well as the Supreme Court.