Ram Jethmalani, doyen of lawyers and one who specialized in both criminal and civil cases with the same ease, awe and felicity, is memory now. He departed from “God’s Waiting Lounge for Humans”, at the ripe age of 94, his head held high and a reputation left behind for posterity. While Jethmalani was quintessentially a lawyer, he made mark as a parliamentarian and activist who raised his voice against corruption and other vices in politics. Yet, the contradiction in his words and deeds was all too clear – he held a brief for criminals of the worst kind, defended the indefensible, including the assassins of Indira Gandhi, and argued their cases with a rare frenzy. He displayed intelligence as also a sharpness of mind.

Jethmalani, above all, cherished the passion of being a lawyer, whose ultimate motto is to defend his client to the hilt and help him/her out of the case. A lawyer is not bound by inhibitions about the past of his client; and courts are not the platforms for lawyers to engage in a moral discourse. A lawyer is expected to defend his client by all means; and winning a case is his sole obsession. As much is allowed and expected in the inns of law. Jetmalani proved he’s among the best practitioners of law. He helped many out of the gallows, but as a matter of principle he defended capital punishment.

In politics, Jetmalani stood for long by the saffron side – first with the Jan Sangh and then with the BJP, became a minister, handled law and other portfolios, and one fine morning he quit his minister post over differences with then prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. A ministerial post offered some charm to him, but the legal profession from which he minted money by way of huge fees was equally alluring. He ended up with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) of Lalu Prasad Yadav and remained a member of the Rajya Sabha till his last breath. As a lawyer, he hung up his boots in 2017.

Born in Sindh province that’s now in Pakistan, Ram Jethmalani was among the refugees who struggled their way back to India in the post-Partition days and then made it big as a legal professional. With two wives and four children in them, Jethmalani was a rare kind of individual. The sharpness of his wit and humour is now a thing of the past, but the legacy he leaves  behind as a lawyer of eminence will remain etched in Indian history for a long time.

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