Ram Jethmalani

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Ram Boolchand Jethmalani
Ram Jethmalani.jpg
Ram Jethmalani
Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha)
Member of Parliament
for Rajasthan
Minister of Law and Justice
In office
June 1999 – July 2000
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Preceded by M. Thambi Durai
Succeeded by Arun Jaitley
Minister of Urban Development
In office
19 March 1998 – 14 June 1999
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Minister of Law and Justice
In office
16 May 1996 – 1 June 1996
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Personal details
Born (1923-09-14) 14 September 1923 (age 96)
Shikharpur, British India
Political party Bhartiya Janata Party (now expelled)
Spouse(s) Ratna Shahani
Residence 2, Akbar Road, New Delhi[1]
Alma mater S.C. Shahani Law College, Karachi
Profession Lawyer, Jurist, Professor of Law, Politician, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist
Religion Hinduism
Website Official Website

Ram Jethmalani born 14 September 1923, is an Indian lawyer and politician. He has served as India's Union Law Minister and as Chairman of Bar Council of India. He has represented a sweep of cases from the high-profile to the controversial for which he has often faced severe criticism. He is the highest paid Indian lawyer[2] He has always claimed that 90% of the cases he fights is free of cost.

Ram Jethmalani is known as a maverick lawyer with many distinctions to his credit. He obtained a law degree at an early age of 17 and started practising law in his hometown (in today's Pakistan) until the partition of India. He married Durga Jethmalani and later, his second wife, Ratna Jethmalani. The partition led him to move to Mumbai as a refugee and he began his life afresh with his family. He has two sons and two daughters, of whom, Mahesh Jethmalani and Rani Jethmalani are also well known lawyers.

He was elected a member of parliament in 6th and 7th Lok Sabha on a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ticket from Mumbai. He has served as Law Minister of India and also as Minister of Urban Development during the Prime Ministership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee against whom he later on contested election in General Elections of 2004 from Lucknow constituency. However in 2010 he came back to BJP and was elected to Rajya Sabha on its ticket from Rajasthan. He has also been criticised as being opportunistic because of this.[3]

He is a well known face amongst the legal community in India. Even though he is primarily known as only a criminal lawyer, he has appeared in many high-profile cases. On 7 May 2010 he was elected to be the president of Supreme Court Bar Association.[4][5]

Personal life

Ram Jethmalani was born Shikarpur in the Sindh division of the then Bombay Presidency, now part of Pakistan in the family of Boolchand Gurmukhdas Jethmalani and Parbati Boolchand.[6] He got a double promotion in school and completed matriculation at the age of 13. He secured an LLB degree at the young age of 17 from S.C. Shahani Law College, Karachi. At that time, the minimum age for becoming a lawyer was 21, but a special resolution allowed him to become a lawyer at 18. He received his L.L.M. from S.C. Shahani Law College, Karachi .[1]

Ram Jethmalani was married at an age of little above 18, to Durga, in a traditional Indian arranged marriage. In 1947, just before partition, he also married Ratna Shahani, a lawyer by profession.His family today includes both wives and four children – three by Durga (Rani, Shobha, Mahesh) and one by Ratna (Janak)[7]


He still maintains good physical and mental health.He is a strict vegetarian, eats only two meals a day and fasts on Tuesdays.[8] He wakes up early to enjoy a game of badminton for an hour, eats some fruit, usually works through lunch while drinking buttermilk, and he says for dinner "I take my two whiskeys, and occasionally a little bit of ice cream". Even after landing of the overnight flight at 1.30am, the one-hour trip to the hotel, 91-year-old Jethmalani was in court 10.30am sharp on 30 September to fight for his client Jayalalitha.[9]

As a lawyer

Ram Jethmalani started his career as a professor in Sindh before partition.[10] He started his own law firm in Karachi with his friend A.K. Brohi who was senior to him by six years.[7] In February 1948, when the riots broke out in Karachi, he fled to India on the advice of his friend Brohi who later turned to be the Law Minister of Pakistan.

Ram Jethmalani first came to spot light with his appearance in the famous K. M. Nanavati vs. State of Maharashtra case in 1959 with Yeshwant Vishnu Chandrachud, later to become Chief Justice of India. His later defence of a string of smugglers in the late 1960s established Jethmalani’s image as a 'smuggler’s lawyer'. Even back then, he would point out that he was only doing his duty as a lawyer.[11]

In 1953, he became a part-time professor at the Government Law College, Mumbai for both graduate and post graduate studies. He also taught Comparative law at International Law at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.[10] He has also been the Chairman of Bar Council of India for four tenures both before and after the emergency. He was also a member of International Bar Association 1996.He has also been Professor Emeritus at Symbiosis Law School, Pune since 2003.

While he was a young lawyer, he was offered the judgeship of City Civil Court in Bombay but he refused the post stating that then he was not respectable enough.[12]


In 1971, Ram Jethmalani contested as an independent candidate from Ulhasnagar supported both by the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Jan Sangh but he lost the elections.[7] During the Emergency period of 1975–1977, he was the chairman of the Bar Association of India. He heavily criticised the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. An arrest warrant was issued against him from Kerala. It was stayed by the Bombay High Court when over 300 lawyers led by Nani Palkhivala appeared for him. However the stay was nullified by the famous Habeas Corpus judgment (Additional District Magistrate of Jabalpur v. Shiv Kant Shukla) and Ram Jethmalani exiled himself in Canada carrying on his campaign against the Emergency. He returned 10 months later after Emergency was lifted. While in Canada, his candidature was filed from Bombay North-West constituency. He won the election and retained the seat in 1980 General Elections, but lost to Sunil Dutt of the Indian National Congress in 1985. In the 1977 general elections after the Emergency, he ousted the serving Law Minister H.R. Gokhale from Bombay in the Lok Sabha Elections and hence started his political career as a Parliamentarian.[7] However he was not made law minister himself as Morarji Desai disapproved of his lifestyle.[11]

He became a member of Rajya Sabha in 1988. He became The Union Minister of Law, Justice and Company Affairs in 1996 in the Government of India led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. During the second tenure of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he was given the portfolio of Union Minister of Urban Affairs and Employment in 1998. But on 13 October 1999 he was again sworn in as the Union Minister for Law, Justice & Company Affairs. However he was asked to resign by the Prime Minister following differences with the then Chief Justice of India Adarsh Sein Anand and Attorney General of India Soli Sorabjee. It is believed that Jethmalani never enjoyed the confidence of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He was inducted into the Cabinet on Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani's insistence.[13]

He had also announced his candidature for President of India stating "I owe it to the nation to offer my services" and launched his own political fronts, the Bharat Mukti Morcha, launched as a 'mass movement' in 1987 and in 1995 he launched his own political party called Pavitra Hindustan Kazhagam, with a motto to achieve "Transparency in functioning of Indian Democracy."[11]

In the General Elections of 2004, he contested against Atal Bihari Vajpayee from the Lucknow constituency as an independent candidate. Indian National Congress did not field their candidates in this election. However he lost. Later on, in 2010, he was given a Rajya Sabha ticket by Bharatiya Janta Party from Rajasthan and he was selected. Currently he is also a member of the Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice.[1] Ram Jethmalani is a person who is known to speak his mind. Recently at a reception hoisted by the Pakistan High Commission for the Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar who was on a visit to India on 28 July 2011, the former Law Minister and Rajya Sabha MP Ram Jethmalani in the presence of the Chinese Ambassador called China an enemy of both India and Pakistan and warned the Indians and Pakistanis to beware[14] of the Chinese.

In December 2009, the Committee on Judicial Accountability stated that it considered that recommendations for judicial appointments should only be made after a public debate, including review by members of the bar of the affected high courts. This statement was made in relation to controversy about the appointments of justices C. K. Prasad and P. D. Dinakaran. The statement was signed by Ram Jethmalani, Shanti Bhushan, Fali Sam Nariman, Anil B. Divan, Kamini Jaiswal and Prashant Bhushan.[15]

Expulsion from the party

In 2012, Jethmalani wrote to then Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) President Nitin Gadkari, accusing opposition BJP leaders of being "silent against the huge corruption" within the ruling UPA-II government, and stated that BJP "is sick".[16] Jethmalani's letter became public on the internet, and in May 2013, BJP expelled Jethmalani from the party for 6 years, for having made anti-party statements.[17] In October 2013, defamation charges were framed against BJP seeking 50 lakh (US$74,000) as "null and void and damages" for making a statement that he was not a fit person to be member of the party.[18]

Defence of high-profile cases

He has a number of high-profile defence cases to his credit as a lawyer — people involved in market scams (Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh), and a host of gangsters and smugglers including the British citizen Daisy Angus who was acquitted of hashish smuggling after serving 5 years in jail. He also defended L.K Advani in Hawala Scam. Recently he was in the news for taking up the defence of Manu Sharma, prime accused in the Jessica Lall murder case, however, he failed to get Manu Sharma acquitted. He is now going to be defending Lalit Modi – former IPL Chairman and Commissioner.[19][20][21][22]

Sanjay Chandra bail in Supreme Court in 2G Scam Kulbhushan Parashar Bail in Navy War Room Leak Case

However Ram Jethmalani is of the opinion that he is someone who thinks independently, who has not mortgaged his soul or intelligence to anybody. He says "I decide according to my conscience who to defend. A lawyer who refuses to defend a person on the grounds that people believe him to be guilty is himself guilty of professional misconduct."

After he joined Bharatiya Janta Party in 2010, when he was asked why he had defended Afzal Guru against his death sentence when his party was in support of it, he replied that he had meant "that such indoctrinated elements (like Afzal) shouldn’t be allowed to die easily, but they should made to rot in jails."[11] (Jethmalani in his interview with Rajat Sharma in August 2013 said that he never took up the case of Afzal Guru[27])

Controversy during his ministerial term

  • Therak on the Srikrishna Commission report. This was interpreted as evidence of the judiciary's exasperation with the law minister.

Awards and achievements

  • International Jurist Award[28]
  • World Peace Through Law Award
  • In 1977 he received Human Rights Award instituted by World Peace Through Law for his fight against authoritarianism at Philippines.[10]


  • Maverick: Unchanged, Unrepentant, Rupa Publications
  • Biography: Ram Jethmalani : The Authorized Biography by Nalini Gera
  • In April 2007 at the time Prime Minister Manmohan Singh released one of his books titled Conscience of a Maverick.[29]
  • Big Egos, Small Men, Har Anand Publications.
  • Conflict of Laws, 1956
  • Justice Soviet Style[30]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Members Webpage – Rajyasabha". Rajyasabha, Parliament of India. Retrieved 9 February 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/Story/87820/50%20Power%20People%20of%20India/Ram+Jethmalani:+Argumentative+Indian.html Indian Today: Ram Jethmalani: Argumentative Indian
  3. http://attorneylawyer.me/karan-thapar-ram-jethmalani-latest-part-2/
  4. "Jethmalani new SCBA president". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 8 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. http://www.legallyindia.com/20100507792/The-Bar-and-Bench/breaking-ram-jethmalani-elected-as-scba-president-to-repair-damage-done
  6. "Top most Indian Lawyer: Sindhi Genius Of Indian Law : Ram Jethmalani". The Sindhu World. Retrieved 10 February 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi-times/Ram-Jethmalani-In-black-and-white/articleshow/9580860.cms Ram Jethmalani: In black and white: Times New Network, 12 May 2002
  8. http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/Ram+Jethmalani:+Argumentative+Indian/1/87820.html
  9. http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/when-in-legal-trouble-say-ram/article1-1271846.aspx
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 http://www.ramjethmalani.com/about_us.php
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 http://www.hindustantimes.com/Devil-s-advocate-Jethmalani/Article1-171537.aspx Devil?s advocate: Jethmalani
  12. Saluja, Pallavi (12 March 2014). "I may be a sinner in many other ways but I have sinned with a clean conscience" - Ram Jethmalani". Bar and Bench. Retrieved 12 March 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. http://www.india-today.com/itoday/20000807/cover.html The Wrath of Ram: India Today
  14. Shubhajit Roy for The Indian Express, New Delhi, dated Thu 28 July 2011, 01:48 hrs
  15. J. VENKATESAN (20 December 2009). "Promotions should be transparent: judicial accountability panel". The Hindu. Chennai, India. Retrieved 30 April 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Jethmalani writes to Gadkari, says BJP is sick Hindustan Times, New Delhi, 26 May 2012
  17. "Ram Jethmalani expelled from BJP for anti-party remarks". NDTV. 28 May 2013. Retrieved 28 May 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Jethmalani seeks Rs. 50 lakh in damages from BJP". The Hindu. 31 October 2013. Retrieved 1 November 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. The Indian Express
  20. Video on YouTube
  21. "Lalit Modi to move court against IPL governing council meeting". The Times of India.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. http://www.hinduonnet.com/2003/01/05/stories/2003010502270800.htm
  23. target=ijor:iijfmt&volume=7&issue=4&article=004 "Dr T D Dogra's expert evidence in trial of assassination of Indira Gandhi Prime Minister of India, Indian Internet Journal of Forensic Medicine & Toxicology, Year : 2009, Volume : 7, Issue : 4, First page : ( 134) Last page : ( 159) , Print ISSN : 0974-4487. Online ISSN : 0973-1970" Check |url= value (help). Oct 2009. Retrieved 24 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. http://ibnlive.in.com/news/hegde-has-been-misled-ram-jethmalani/178740-60-115.html
  25. http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/couldnt-police-wait-till-morning-for-crackdown-supreme-court-on-ramdev-camp-151794
  26. http://www.thehindu.com/news/jethmalani-to-appear-for-jayalalithaa/article6455202.ece
  27. Video on YouTube
  28. http://www.ramjethmalani.com/news.php?first=0
  29. http://www.hindu.com/2010/11/08/stories/2010110856051100.htm Ram Jethmalani – 87 not out : The HIndu
  30. "7th Lok Sabha – Members Bioprofile". Loksabha, India. Retrieved 9 February 2013. |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
M. Thambi Durai
Minister of Law and Justice
June 1999 – July 2000
Succeeded by
Arun Jaitley
Political offices
Preceded by
Minister of Urban Development
19 March 1998 – 14 June 1999
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Minister of Law and Justice
16 May 1996 – 1 June 1996
Succeeded by
Arun Jaitley