Ram Jethmalani

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Ram Jethmalani
Ram Jethmalani.jpg
Member of the Rajya Sabha
Assumed office
8 July 2016
Preceded byGulam Rasool Balyawi, JD(U)
In office
5 July 2010 – 4 July 2016
Minister of Law and Justice
In office
June 1999 – July 2000
Prime MinisterAtal Bihari Vajpayee
Preceded byM. Thambidurai
Succeeded byArun Jaitley
Minister of Urban Development
In office
19 March 1998 – 14 June 1999
Prime MinisterAtal Bihari Vajpayee
Minister of Law and Justice
In office
16 May 1996 – 1 June 1996
Prime MinisterAtal Bihari Vajpayee
Personal details
Born (1923-09-14) 14 September 1923 (age 95)
Shikharpur, Bombay Presidency, British India
(now in Sindh, Pakistan)
Political partyBharatiya Janata Party (till 2013)
Rashtriya Janata Dal (2016–)
Spouse(s)Ratna Jethmalani
Durga Jethmalani
Residence2, Akbar Road, New Delhi, India[1]
Alma materS.C. Shahani Law College, Karachi- University of Bombay
ProfessionLawyer, Jurist, Professor of Law, Politician, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist

Ram Boolchand Jethmalani (born 14 September 1923) is an Indian lawyer and politician. He has served as India's Union Law Minister and as chairman of the 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]

Ram Jethmalani obtained LL.B.degree at the age of 17[3]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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]. He announced his retirement from judicial profession on 10th September 2017. Parvati came to his life at the age of 90.

He was elected a member of parliament in the 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 contested election in the 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 been criticised as being opportunistic because of this.[4]

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.[5] On 7 May 2010 he was elected as the president of Supreme Court Bar Association.[6][7]


Ram Jethmalani was born in Shikarpur, Sindh in the Sindh division of the then Bombay Presidency, now part of Pakistan in the family of Boolchand Gurmukhdas Jethmalani and Parbati Boolchand.[8] He got a double promotion in school and completed matriculation at the age of 13. He secured an LLB degree from Bombay University with a first class first at the young age of 17. At that time, the minimum age for becoming a lawyer was 21, but a special exception (resulting from an application that he made to the court contesting the rule regarding minimum age) allowed him to become a lawyer at 18. He received LL.M. from Bombay university , since Sindh did not have a university of its own at that time.[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)[9][10]

As a lawyer[edit]

Ram Jethmalani started his career as a lawyer and Professor in Sindh before partition.[11] He started his own law firm in Karachi with his friend A.K. Brohi who was senior to him by seven years.[9] In February 1948, when riots broke out in Karachi, he fled to India on the advice of his friend Brohi and when he came to India in that day he has only a one paisa coin in his pocket and with that note he stayed in the refugee camp for few days.

Jethmalani fought his very first case at the age of 17 in the court of Sindh under Justice Godfrey Davis, contesting the rule regarding minimum age passed by the bar council of Sindh. In a talk at Algebra in June 2017, Jethmalani recounted his very first case fought in India as a refugee. A new law (Bombay refugees act) that had just been passed by the then chief minister Morarji Desai treated refugees badly and in an inhumane manner. The act treated refugees in a manner similar to convicted prisoners, allowing the state to relocate, sequester and question them anytime. Jethmalani file a case against this at the Bombay high court, asking the law to be declared unconstitutional and won it.[12]

Ram Jethmalani next came to the spot light a decade later with his appearance in the 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.[13]

In 1954, 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.[11] 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.


Jethmalani contested as an independent candidate from Ulhasnagar supported both by the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Jan Sangh but he lost the elections.[9] 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 habeas corpus judgment Additional District Magistrate of Jabalpur v. Shiv Kant Shukla[14] and Ram Jethmalani exiled himself in Canada carrying on his campaign against the emergency. He returned 10 months later after the 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.[9] However he was not made law minister himself as Morarji Desai disapproved of his lifestyle.[13]

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 and 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.[15]

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".[13]

In the general elections of 2004, he contested against Atal Bihari Vajpayee from the Lucknow constituency as an independent candidate. The 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. He is also a member of the Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice.[1] Jethmalani[16] is a person who is known to speak his mind. At a reception[17] hosted 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[18] 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 Jethmalani, Shanti Bhushan, Fali Sam Nariman, Anil B. Divan, Kamini Jaiswal and Prashant Bhushan.[19]

Expulsion from the party[edit]

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".[20] Jethmalani's letter[21] became public on the Internet, and in May 2013, BJP expelled Jethmalani from the party for six years, for having made anti-party statements.[22] In October 2013, defamation charges were framed against BJP seeking 50 lakh (US$70,000) as "null and void and damages" for making a statement that he was not a fit person to be member of the party.[23][21]

Defence of high-profile cases[edit]

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 five years in jail. He also defended L. K. Advani in the Hawala scam. 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 going to be defending Lalit Modi – former Indian Premier League (IPL) chairman and commissioner.[24][25][26][27]

On 9th September 2017 he announced his retirement from the legal profession.[34]

Awards and achievements[edit]

  • International Jurist Award[35]
  • 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.[11]


  • 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.[36]
  • Big Egos, Small Men, Har Anand Publications.
  • Conflict of Laws, 1956
  • Justice Soviet Style[37]
  • The Rebel: 'A biography of Ram Jethmalani' by Susan Adelman

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Members Webpage – Rajyasabha". Rajyasabha, Parliament of India. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  2. ^ "Ram Jethmalani: Argumentative Indian". intoday.in. Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  3. ^ "Ram Jethmalani's most candid interview on Modi, BJP and his sole ambition in life at 94}". youtube.com.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 30 December 2010.
  5. ^ "Will he walk away?". India Today. 14 June 1993. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  6. ^ "Jethmalani new SCBA president". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 8 May 2010.
  7. ^ Legally India. "Breaking: Ram Jethmalani elected as SCBA president to repair damage done". Archived from the original on 12 May 2010. Retrieved 7 June 2010.
  8. ^ "Top most Indian Lawyer: Sindhi Genius Of Indian Law : Ram Jethmalani". The Sindhu World. Archived from the original on 27 December 2012. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  9. ^ a b c d 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.
  10. ^ ‘I plead guilty to being a bad husband..’, "Tete-a-tete with Ram Jethmalani", The Telegraph, Calcutta.
  11. ^ a b c "HugeDomains.com - RamJethmalani.com is for sale (Ram Jethmalani)".
  12. ^ [www.youtube.com "Ram jethmalani's most candid interview - on Modi, BJP and his sole ambition in life at 94 (29 June 2017)"] Check |url= value (help). You tube - algebra channel. ALGEBRA conversations. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
  13. ^ a b c http://www.hindustantimes.com/Devil-s-advocate-Jethmalani/Article1-171537.aspx[permanent dead link] Devil?s advocate: Jethmalani
  14. ^ (Additional District Magistrate of Jabalpur v. Shiv Kant Shukla) Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ "The Wrath of Ram: India Today". Archived from the original on 24 November 2010. Retrieved 30 December 2010.
  16. ^ Ram Jethmalani Archived 1 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  17. ^ "China your enemy: Jethmalani walks all over Pak's red carpet - Indian Express". indianexpress.com. Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  18. ^ Shubhajit Roy for The Indian Express, New Delhi, dated Thursday, 28 July 2011, 01:48 hrs
  19. ^ J. VENKATESAN (20 December 2009). "Promotions should be transparent: judicial accountability panel". The Hindu. Chennai, India. Retrieved 30 April 2012.
  20. ^ "Jethmalani writes to Gadkari, says BJP is sick", Hindustan Times, New Delhi, 26 May 2012 Archived 28 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^ a b "Jethmalani Letter". scribd.com. Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  22. ^ "Ram Jethmalani expelled from BJP for anti-party remarks". NDTV. 28 May 2013. Retrieved 28 May 2013.
  23. ^ "Jethmalani seeks Rs. 50 lakh in damages from BJP". The Hindu. 31 October 2013. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
  24. ^ "Manu Sharma convicted for Jessica murder".
  25. ^ Video on YouTube
  26. ^ "Lalit Modi to move court against IPL governing council meeting". The Times of India.
  27. ^ "The Hindu : Sena firm on opposing Jethmalani". Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 29 December 2018.
  28. ^ "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". October 2009. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  29. ^ "- News18". News18.
  30. ^ A Vaidyanathan (21 November 2011). "Couldn't police wait till morning for crackdown? Supreme Court on Ramdev camp". NDTV.com.
  31. ^ Legal Correspondent. "Jethmalani to appear for Jayalalithaa". The Hindu.
  32. ^ http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/ram-jethmalani-arvind-kejriwal-arun-jaitley-defamation-case/1/1011008.html
  33. ^ http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/jethmalani-quits-as-cms-counsel-seeks-rs-2-crore-fee/articleshow/59765482.cms
  34. ^ Hindu, The. "Report of Shri Ram Jethmalani's retirement". Retrieved 23 December 2017.
  35. ^ "HugeDomains.com - RamJethmalani.com is for sale (Ram Jethmalani)". ramjethmalani.com. Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  36. ^ http://www.hindu.com/2010/11/08/stories/2010110856051100.htm Ram Jethmalani – 87 not out : The HIndu
  37. ^ Lok Sabha. "7th Lok Sabha – Members Bioprofile". Loksabha, India. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 3 November 2016.

External links[edit]

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