Veteran Supreme Court lawyer and former law minister Ram Jethmalani passed away at his residence in Delhi on Sunday. He was 95 years old. He was under medical supervision for past two weeks.
In 1999, he was India’s Law Minister in the second Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. He also served as the president of the Bar Council of India (BCI) and the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA).
Born on 14 September 1923, in Shikharpur, Bombay Presidency in British India (at present in Sindh, Pakistan), Jethmalani obtained his LLB degree at the age of 17 from Bombay University, and at the same age, contested his very first case in the Court of Sindh, contesting the rule regarding minimum age passed by the bar council of Sindh.
In India, where he moved in February 1948 after riots broke out in Karachi, he fought his first case, in Bombay High Court, against a law passed by the Chief Minister of the-then Bombay State, Morarji Desai.
The said law treated refugees in a manner similar to convicted prisoners. In Bombay HC, he asked that the law be declared unconstitutional, and won the case. In 1959, he participated in the infamous KM Nanavati vs State of Maharashtra case, along with Yashwant Vishnu Chandrachud, who later served as the Chief Justice of India from 22 February 1978 to 11 July 1985.
He also dabbled in politics, and after various stints in as a Member of Parliament (MP) in both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, became the Union Minister for Law, Justice and Company Affairs in 1996 under Prime Minister Vajpayee. In the 2004 General Elections, he contested as an independent candidate against Vajpayee but lost. In 2010, he was given a Rajya Sabha ticket from Rajasthan by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). However, he was expelled in 2013, for making anti-party comments, a year after he wrote to then BJP chief Nitin Gadkari accusing party leaders of being silent over huge corruption within the ruling UPA-2.
He was married twice and has three children from his first wife, including senior Bombay HC advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, and one from his second wife. Jethmalani announced his retirement from the judicial profession on 10 September 2017.
President Ram Nath Kovind said, “Saddened by the passing of Shri Ram Jethmalani, former Union Minister and a veteran lawyer. He was known to express his views on public issues with his characteristic eloquence. The nation has lost a distinguished jurist, a person of great erudition and intellect”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid his tributes to Jethmalani in a series of tweets. Prime Minister called him “an exceptional lawyer and iconic public figure who made contributions both in the court nad parliament”. Vice President of India M Venkaiah Naidu visited Jethmalani’s residence to day morning to pay his respects.