Ram Jethmalani: An adieu to the Lord of Criminal Law

A legend is born only once, he lives and dies as a true legend, when Ram Jethmalani leaves us, he leaves a perpetual vacuum in the field of law for all times to come. He was fondly called as “Ram”, the teenage of Ram was itself a pointer to the future heights he was set to conquer. The very first case fought against the Bar of Sindh against the “minimum age rule” at the age of 17, was just the beginning of an illustrious career which grew along with the shaping of our Nation’s legal course. He always spoke fearlessly, his courage and indomitable spirit to fight for what he believed right had a uniqueness in it.

The relentless writing and outspokenness invited the wrath of many, the power centre’s shook when Jethmalani spoke, he had no qualms in speaking the truth, the emergency period was one such phase which saw the wrath of then Prime Minister falling on Jethmalani through her most trusted lieutenant in Kerala. When an arrest warrant was issued against Jethmalani, more than three hundred lawyers appeared in Bombay High Court under illustrious Nani Palkhiwala for raising the cause of Jethmalani. He later shifted the theater of anti-emergency movement to overseas and returned adorning a new role in Parliamentary politics.

Jethmalani staunchly believed, it’s the duty of a lawyer to defend the client who seeks his service and should discharge his legal obligations towards him/her irrespective of what the society thought. The new age media and the clarion calls made in news rooms, often finished the trials before a formal summoning was made by any formal courts. At times, armed with a huge TRP and aimed at new heights, the news rooms even pronounced judgments as well. None cared we have an adversarial system of trial, most forgot the Constitutional obligations of an accused and his/her rights for a free, fair trial and right to be represented. The crime might have shaken the consciousness of society but the punishments too ought to be rendered as laid down by the procedural law and not through the agitated masses. Jethmalani withstood the strong pressure when he was questioned on his decisions to defend the accused. He never played to the gallery, in a way he was single handedly upholding the right to be defended when he stood up against all odds. He pooh-phooed all who questioned such decisions by citing the bar council rules and the Constitutional principles and advised them to be aware of the basics before raising a high pitch battle against defending such accused persons.

Power and positions came calling him, he had his own style of accepting and leaving it, the controversies were never hesitant in courting him, neither he was shy in being the centre of it. The big and small at one point or the other, who came to him were touched by the ways of the legend. The multi sided personality had a Midas touch in him, he excelled as a professor, author, politician, parliamentarian, minister et al. He always loved to be among law students and made it a point to adorn the role of a teacher often guiding and leading them.  The passing away of Jethmalani is leaving a vacuum for all times to come, because legends are only born once and here we lost a legend who stood the mighty winds.