The legacy of the ‘Doyen of the Bar’

By Mayuresh Bhardwaj

I have been practicing the law since before my lordships were even born” this witty quote itself describe the personality of the legend of bar Ram Boolchand Jethmalani (14 September 1923 – 8 September 2019).

Born in a middle-class family in Sindh (now in Pakistan) he arrived in India at a very young age with a coin of 1 paisa in his pocket and with that he stayed in the refugee camp for a few days.

Obtained LLB degree at the age of 17! at the time when the age of starting a carrier in law was 21, he was the special person to start his carrier at the age of 18! at the age when many of us not even able to figure out our future path.

He fought his first case at the age of 18 as a refugee, Bombay Refugees Act that had just been passed by the then chief minister Morarji Desai, treated refugees badly and in an inhumane manner. The Act treated refugees in a manner like convicted prisoners, allowing the state to relocate, sequester and question them anytime. Jethmalani filed a case against this in the Bombay High Court, asking the law to be declared unconstitutional and won it.

Over the tenure of his career, Jethmalani had a brawny impact on the judiciary of the country and appeared in many high-profile cases, some of which are still referred for teaching tricks of the trade to law students.

He never distinct his profession by the edge of good and bad cases even if he got criticized for the same on several occasions, for him, his job was his worship and he followed it throughout his life with dignity. His defended Indira Gandhi’s alleged assassins, also defended Rajiv Gandhi’s killers, Hansal Mehta are among the few highlighted ones of his professional life.

Ram Jethmalani was elected as president of the Supreme Court Bar Association in 2010. The eminent stalwart of Indian judiciary as well as a very big name in the lane of Indian politics. Well! thats very rare to be get count among the tops in not one but two very old and promising professional fields but as we know, he was the special case.

From criticizing his own supported government to appreciating opponents. From being in the cabinet of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to contesting against him in the next term of general election, exactly show his intensity as a professional. Later in the sixth and seventh Lok Sabha, he was elected as a member of Parliament and served the nation as union law minister and urban development minister.

He lived his salt and pepper styled life full circle with all his believes and dignity according to his persona. His passing at the age of 95 is indeed not just a loss for the legal fraternity but also a vacuum appeared in the society which is hard to fill.