Ram Jethmalani : The Legend of the Bar; Started at 17, still strong at 93

A maverick, genius and a flamboyant lawyer is some of the words that can be commonly used to describe Ram Jethmalani and his life and career. But being a renowned politician and lawyer, also comes with being involved in many controversies. Despite the severe criticism that Jethmalani has faced, he is still one of the shrewdest and most senior criminal lawyers in the country. Ram Jethmalani got his Law degree he was just 17 years of age and was not allowed to practice Law according to the Laws of the Bar Council which didn’t allow anyone to practice law below the age of 21.

But the maverick was too hungry for his first case that his first battle in the court he fought was for him to be allowed to practice Law. Since the rule of the age 21 was introduced later he appealed to the Chef Justice that he should not be affected by the Law which was introduced later when he did enter the Law School. The Chief Justice did accept his plea and made some exceptions in the Law, so he was allowed to take his first case at the age of 18 making him become the youngest advocate in the history of our country.

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 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 17and 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.

Jethmalani is a well known face amongst the legal community in India. Even though his forte lies in criminal law, he has appeared in many high-profile civil cases. From 1993 to 1998, he was one of the lawyers who represented Harshad Mehta during the Harshad Mehta scam and the Narasimha Rao bribery case. On 7 May 2010 he was elected as the president of Supreme Court Bar Association.

Ram Jethmalani started his career as a lecturer in a Pakistani educational institution, before the partition. Then he started his own law firm with a friend, A.K. Brohi. A few years later when the political insurrections began in Karachi, him and his family took refuge in India. Like several other people, he started a new life in Bombay and continued to practice Law. In 1953, he became a visiting lecturer at a Government Law College in Mumbai. Here, he taught undergraduate and postgraduate students. Ram extended his training to Comparative Law at the Wayne State University in Detroit.

It was not until 1959 that he became a well-known face. In the same year that he appeared in the famed case, K. M. Nanavati vs. State of Maharashtra along with another lawyer, Yeshwant Vishnu Chandrachud. In the 1960’s, Jethmalani appeared as a defense lawyer for a series of smugglers. This had a negative outcome on his public image and earned him the title of ‘a smuggler’s lawyer’.
His unruffled demure and astute sense of judgment set him apart from the rest of the attorneys in the country. Ram Jethmalani has previously served as the Chairman of the Bar Council of India for four terms before and after the Indian Emergency. Besides this, he has also been a member of International Bar Association in 1996.

In 1971, this famous lawyer entered the world of politics by standing as an independent candidate, under the guidance and support of the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Jan Sangh. Despite his influential backing, he lost the elections. Thereafter, the period of Indian Emergency began, where Ram held the position of Chairperson of the Bar Association of India.

Ram Jethmalani was said to have disparaged Indira Gandhi for which an arrest warrant was issued. But the case was nullified as he won the overwhelming support of 300 other lawyers. Political tension in the country made him shift base to Canada but he still continued to protest against the Emergency by filing for his candidature. Finally, he won the elections. AAfter this, he returned to India and tried to contest in the elections held in 1985 but he lost to Sunil Dutt.

In the following years, he became a Parliamentarian and initiated his political movement called Bharat Mukti Morcha in 1987. The next year, he became a Rajya Sabha member and in 1996, the Union Minister of Law, Justice and Company Affairs that was led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Jethmalani also launched his own party called Pavitra Hindustan Kazhagam.

During the then Prime Minister’s tenure, Jethmalani was appointed as the Union Minister of Urban Affairs and Employment in 1998 and Union Minister for Law, Justice & Company Affairs in 1999 for a brief period. He also proclaimed his contention for the President of India.

In 2004, he contested for general elections and lost by a fair number. 6 years later, he got a pass into the Rajya Sabha of Rajasthan by the Bharatiya Janta Party.

Awards and Accolades
Jethmalani has been the recipient of prestigious awards such as International Jurist Award, World Peace Through Law Award and Human Rights Award by World Peace Through Law (1977) for his work in against fascism in Philippines.

Timeline
1923: Ram was born in Sindh during the British Raj.
1948: He sought refuge in India and settled in Mumbai.
1953: He took up lecturing at a Government Law College.
1959: Jethmalani was in the limelight for the infamous case of K. M. Nanavati vs. State of Maharashtra.
1960: Appeared in other criminal cases and was labeled as the ‘smuggler’s lawyer’.
1971: He entered the political scene.
1977: Received the Human Rights Award by World Peace Through Law.
1985: Lost the second round of elections to Sunil Dutt.
1988: Ram became a member of the Rajya Sabha.
1996: He was appointed the The Union Minister of Law, Justice and Company Affairs during the period of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
1998: Jethmalani was the Union Minister of Urban Affairs and Employment.
1999: The position of Union Minister for Law, Justice & Company Affairs was given to him for a short period.
2010: He was appointed as the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association.

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