Former law minister and senior criminal advocate Ram Jethmalani passed away on Sunday at his New Delhi residence. His son Mahesh Jethmalani said the veteran lawyer had not been keeping well for a few months. He breathed his last days before his 96th birthday on September 14.
Who was Ram Jethmalani?
Ram Boolchand Jethmalani served as law minister and chairman of Bar Council of India. Born in Sindh province on September 23, 1923, he obtained a law degree at an early age of 17 and started practising law in Karachi until the partition of India. After partition, he moved to Bombay as a refugee and began his practice.
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 Hawala scandal, Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case among others.
He was elected as Member of Parliament to the 6th and 7th Lok Sabha on a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ticket from Bombay and served as law minister in 1996 and minister of urban development during the tenure of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, against whom he later contested in the 2004 general elections from Lucknow. He returned to the BJP fold in 2010 and was elected to Rajya Sabha from Rajasthan. The same year, he was also elected as the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association.
Jethmalani has had several high-profile fallouts with the BJP leadership, including with then prime minister Vajpayee. In 1995, he also launched his own political party Pavitra Hindustan Kazhagam, with the motto to achieve “Transparency in the functioning of Indian Democracy.”
Jethmalani was expelled from the BJP in May 2013 for six years after his remarks against then party chief Nitin Gadkari.
In 2015, he hit headlines when he claimed gangster Dawood Ibrahim had been willing to return to India in the 90s, but then Maharashtra chief minister Sharad Pawar had not responded to the offer. Pawar later clarified, saying: “It is true that Ram Jethmalani had given a proposal. But there was a condition that Dawood should not be kept in jail. Rather he be allowed to remain in a house. This was not acceptable. We said he had to face the law.”
On the personal front, Jethmalani got married for the first time at the age of eighteen to Durga and later to Ratna Shahani, a lawyer by profession. He is survived by his son Mahesh Jethmalani, a noted lawyer, and a daughter who lives in the US.