Hazaron saal nargis apni benuri pe roti hain/ badi mushkil se hota hai chaman mein deedawar paida
Arun Jaitley was a multi-faceted individual. A brilliant lawyer, darling of the media, erudite parliamentarian, foodie and a witty and generous human being, he touched the lives of everyone who came into contact with him. He took inspiration from the poem written by the former prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee: “Toot sakte hain magar hum jhuk nahin sakte”.
In cricket parlance, Jaitley, an ardent cricket lover, completed his innings on August 24. He will be remembered for the sixes and fours he regularly hit, especially when they were most required by his team, the BJP.
As finance minister of the country for almost five years, starting from 2014, he was instrumental in implementing GST. Consensus building was sine qua non for the implementation of GST and, there was no better consensus builder than Jaitley. It was his vision and ability that helped the NDA government to open 35 crore Jan Dhan accounts so that the formal banking system reached the marginalised; the Jan Dhan accounts ensured that they were brought into the mainstream and empowered.
Another feather in his cap was the enactment of the Insolvency Code in 2016. The Insolvency Code has resulted in the recovery of more than 1.5 lakh crore of bad debt. The Supreme Court in Swiss Ribbons (P) Ltd. v. Union of India said: “We are happy to note that in the working of the Code, the flow of financial resource to the commercial sector in India has increased exponentially as a result of financial debts being repaid. Approximately 3,300 cases have been disposed of by the adjudicating authority based on out-of-court settlements between corporate debtors and creditors, which themselves involved claims amounting to over Rs 1,20,390 crore. These figures show that the experiment conducted in enacting the Code is proving to be largely successful. The defaulter’s paradise is lost. In its place, the economy’s rightful position has been regained.”
Such was Jaitley’s respect for institutions of the country that when on January 12, 2018, four justices of the Supreme Court of India held a press conference and certain opposition parties tried to derive political mileage out of it, he, out of reverence for the institution that he served so well, respected the doctrine of separation of powers and maintained that the BJP will act with rectitude, exercise complete restraint and not politicise the issue as it was the internal matter of the judiciary.
My association with Jaitley began in 2002, when I moved to Delhi to practice in the Supreme Court. My father, Virendra Bhatia, who was the then advocate general of Uttar Pradesh, had asked me to meet him and seek his professional guidance. I visited his chamber and introduced myself to him. He had a very strong positive aura and I was awestruck with his legal and political knowledge.
He had an exceptional quality of remembering and referring to you by name. His study table had the latest volumes of Supreme Court journals and latest edition of all magazines, neatly flagged and marked showing the level of reading and research he did to keep himself abreast with all the latest developments. I never thought at that point of time that he will be the one to ensure my induction in the BJP and mentor me in the years to come.
After the change of government at the Centre in 2004, Jaitley always made it a point to visit the Supreme Court canteen after his daily list of cases was over. He loved interacting with lawyers over tea. The impromptu meetings in the canteen were filled with humor and thought-provoking discussions.
He was a regular blogger. For the BJP spokespersons, his blogs were like the Bhagavad Gita; they provided the most effective referral points to understand the stand of the party and intricacies of complex political, social and legal issues. In his wide ranging blogs, he recognised the spirit of co-operative federalism during the implementation of GST. A three-part blog on Emergency is a must read for all, where he highlighted the horrors of Emergency, having been imprisoned for almost 19 months. His lucid blog on how triple talaq affects the fundamental rights of Muslim women is an example of his understanding of complex constitutional and social issues. His last blog on the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, brilliantly sums up the reasons behind the historic decision taken by the leadership of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.
In spite of his fading health before the 2019 general election, he did not lose his cheerful disposition. He remained a political compass for the BJP and was instrumental in conducting the morning meetings with party spokespersons. He would give an opportunity to everyone in the room to voice their opinion on various subjects. He would patiently yet keenly listen to each of the proposition made. It was due to his exemplary guidance and understanding of the political scenario that the BJP returned to power.
Jaitley was a political and legal giant. He was a man of principles. He lived with dignity, fought for dignity and passed away with dignity. He leaves behind a legacy difficult to surpass. We will miss you always, Sir.
The writer is national spokesperson, BJP. He is Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India.