indica News Bureau-
New Delhi: Ram Jethmalani, well-known criminal law attorney and parliamentarian, passed away at 7:45 am on Sunday, Sept 8, at his official residence in New Delhi, his son, attorney Mahesh Jethmalani, said.
The senior Jethmalani, who died six days short of his 96th birthday, was serving his sixth term as a member of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of India’s Parliament. Reports said he had been unwell for some weeks and was under round-the-clock medical supervision for the past two.
The controversial and outspoken lawyer was also twice elected to the Lok Sabha, the House of the People, and served as Union minister for law and justice under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for a while. Later, he contested the 2004 Lok Sabha election against Vajpayee in Lucknow.
Jethmalani, who was a supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had grown increasingly critical of him in the first term itself. In fact, in 2015, he declared on Twitter: My diminishing respect for you ends now.
Ram Boolchand Jethmalani, who was born in Shikharpur in Sindh in undivided India, became a lawyer at the age of 18 in Karachi and migrated to Bombay during Partition. He once told The Times of India newspaper that he had got a double promotion at school and completed his matriculation at 13. “I secured an LLB degree by the time I was 17. In those days one could only become a lawyer at the age of 21. But a special resolution [of the bar association] allowed me to become a lawyer at 18.”
The case in which he shot to the limelight was the famous Nanavati murder case in Bombay in 1959. Jethmalani was the prosecutor in the case in which Commander KM Nanavati, an officer of the Indian Navy, was accused of shooting his friend and wife Sylvia’s lover Prem Ahuja, a businessman.
Cdr Nanavati was convicted of murder but later pardoned by the governor of Bombay state (Maharashtra was yet to come into being) and migrated to Canada with Sylvia. The case is also famous for being the one which resulted in the abolition of the jury system of trial in India.
Jethmalani, who never shied away from controversy, also defended the assassins of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the mid-1980s. He, of course, lost that case and his clients were hanged.
Some of his other high-profile cases were the defense of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassins in the Madras High Court and the defence of the late Harshad Mehta and Ketan Mehta in stockmarket scams in the 1990s. He also represented Manu Sharma, the man convicted of Jessica Lal’s murder.
Jethmalani was elected president of the Supreme Court Bar Association in 2010. He had also served earlier as chairman of the Bar Council of India. He announced his retirement from legal practice only two years ago.
Prime Minister Modi paid tribute to him on Twitter, saying, “India has lost an exceptional lawyer and iconic public figure who made rich contributions both in the court and Parliament. He was witty, courageous and never shied away from boldly expressing himself on any subject.”
Union Home Minister Amit Shah said on Twitter that “we have not only lost a distinguished lawyer but also a great human who was full of life.”