Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani sure knows how to be in the news. This time, he is fighting a defamation case for Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal filed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. The case pertains to an appeal made by Kejriwal in Delhi High Court requesting the bank details of Arun Jaitley and his family members from the year 1999 to 2015.
Kejriwal had accused Jaitley of financial irregularities and corruption while he was the president of Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA). In response, Jaitley filed a criminal defamation case against Kejriwal and five other AAP leaders seeking damages worth Rs 10 crore.
Jethmalani being one of the most expensive lawyers in the country has billed Rs 3.42 crore for the defamation case that he is fighting for Kejriwal. However, the Delhi CM has approached Delhi L-G Anil Baijal seeking the money to be paid from the public exchequer. Political parties including the Bharatiya Janata Party have severly criticised the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for the move. Thereafter, Jethmalani offered to fight the case for free saying that he doesn’t charge his ‘poor clients’.
Jethmalani has had a history of being associated with high-profile and controversial cases. Defending himself over why he took up such cases, Jethmalani had once written on Sunday Guardian: “So important is the right of an accused to have the services of a lawyer that the Constitution makers were not satisfied with the rights created by the successive Codes of Criminal Procedure. The Constitution makers introduced it in the Fundamental Rights chapter so that no tyrannical regime could curtail or destroy it. Article 22 declares that no accused shall be denied the right to consult and to be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.”
Some of the controversial cases through which he has been associated are:
1) Indira Gandhi assassination: The noted lawyer defended Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh, the two men convicted for the assassination of the late prime minister Indira Gandhi. In fact, so is his dedication towards his work that when he was asked to defend the accused, he was a BJP member. He gave up his membership to fight the case. It was believed that all the four accused Beant Singh (who was killed shortly after Indira Gandhi), Kehar Singh, Balbir Singh, Satwant Singh held the former PM responsible for operation ‘Blue Star’ at Golden Temple in Amritsar.
2) Rajiv Gandhi assassination case: Jethmalani appeared for the three convicts Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan, accused in the Rajiv Gandhi assasination case, in their plea for commutation of death sentence. Arguing for Murugan, Jethmalani had said that the suicide bomb attack which killed the former prime minister “was not a crime against India”.
3) Jessica Lall murder case: Defending his client Manu Sharma, accused of murdering Jessica Lall, Jethmalani had said that it wasn’t his client, but “a tall, Sikh man” who had shot the model dead. He also justified his move to defend Manu Sharma by targeting Jessica and witness Bina Ramani, he vehemently admitted that he never lied and told falsehoods to defend the accused.
4) Asaram sexual assault case: Jethmalani represented Asaram in a case of sexual assault filed against him. A teenager had alleged that the spiritual guru assaulted her when she and her family visited him at one of the homes run by his spiritual organisation. Defending his client, he had said that Asaram has been in jail since long and is frail and sick adding that the girl had come on her own to Asaram with her parents. He had also alleged that he had argued that the FIR, the scene of crime, age of the girl and the entire case itself was fabricated.
5) Lalu Prasad in fodder scam: Jethmalani defended the former union minister in the fodder scam. After he was convicted in the case, Lalu was disqualified as a parliamentarian and banned from contesting elections for six years. He was tried by a CBI court which convicted him and nearly 40 others of siphoning Rs 37 crore by submitting fake bills for animal husbandry. The senior lawyer had said that barring Lalu, no other convict in the case has been refused bail, thereafter the former minister was granted bail.
6) Jayalalithaa disproportionate case: Senior advocate Jethmalani represented former Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalallithaa in the disproportionate assets case against her. Appealing for a bail for Jayalalithaa, he even hit out at the judge asking whether the judge himself “does not get into witness box as at many stages when there was no proof, he behaved like prosecution witness.”
7) Amit Shah in ‘fake’ encounter cases: Defending BJP chief Amit Shah, Jethmalani had alleged that he was falsely implicated in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case to “destabilise the Narendra Modi government” in Gujarat. He in fact, questioned the Supreme Court order for a CBI probe into the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case, claiming that the order was issued by a bench headed by a judge who was facing a CBI investigation in a PF scam case.
In Jethmalani’s words: “In a society governed by the Rule of Law, a person’s guilt is for the courts alone to determine. No one is guilty until the judicial process has exhausted itself and there is no further avenue left for the condemned man to establish his innocence…That is why it is considered the grossest form of contempt for anyone to prejudice mankind against a person fighting for his life.”
May you continue defending the undefended!