NAME: Ram Bulchand Jethmalani

FATHER’S NAME:  Bulchand Gurmukh Dass Jethmalani

MOTHER’S NAME: Shrimati Prabati Jethmalani

BORN: 14th September 1923

DIED: 8th September 2019

SPOUSE: Shrimati Ratna R.

CHILDREN: Mahesh Jethmalani, Rani Jethmalani, Shobha Jethmalani, Janak Jethmalani

PLACE OF BIRTH: Sindh, Pakistan


EDUCATION: S.C Sahani Law College, Government Law College, Mumbai

PROFESSION: Advocate, Politician


  • International Jurist Award
  • 1977- Human Rights Award by World Peace Through Law


  • Big Egos, Small Men
  • Conflict of Laws
  • Justice: Soviet Style
  • Conscience of Maverick
  • Maverick: Unchanged, Unrepentant


  • Ram Jethmalani: The Authorised Biography by Nalini Gera
  • Rebel: A Biography of Ram Jethmalani by Susan Adelman.

Late Adv. Ram Jethmalani was the best Advocate in his time. He was a prolific Indian Lawyer who also served as a Union Minister in Vajpayee’s administration. He started practicing at the age of 17 since he graduated at a very young age proving his divested intellectual and enlightened prowess in his academics. When he contested the former rule, the legal practicing age of 21 was pushed back by courts to proffer him. Soon after the completion of his graduation at the age of 17, he incorporated his law firm in Karachi, Pakistan.


Ram Jethmalani started his legal career in the age of 17 as a lawyer and professor in Karachi until the partition of India. His first partner in law firm which was based in Karachi was A.K Brohi who happen to be 7 years senior to him.

His first case was fought by him in the age of 17 in the Court of Sindh under Justice Godfrey Davis, contesting the rule regarding the minimum age passed by the Bar Counsel of Sindh.

He fought his first case in India as a refugee, contesting against the Bombay Refugees Act which treated refugees in very ill manner, praying for the Act to be declared unconstitutional.

Ram Jethmalani earned his real goodwill and fame in the Nanavati Case, Indian Navy Commander who was tried for murder, YV Chandrachud and Ram Jethmalani appeared as a prosecution in the case, in the year 1959.

By the end of 1960 he was Lawyer of many smugglers as he established a sting of defence before the court, but in late 1960s he said that he was only doing his duty.

He joined Government Law College, Mumbai as a part time professor for both graduate and post graduate studies, in the year 1954. In Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan he taught corporative law. He has also served as a professor in Symbiosis Law School.

Before as well as after the period of emergency he has been the Chairman of Bar council of India for four years.

He was also a member of International Bar Association.

He was also elected as a President of Supreme Court Bar Association.

During his career he was involved in a number of high-profile cases as a lawyer.

His clients included 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 was to be defending Lalit Modi, former Indian Premier League chairman and commissioner.

Some of the cases Jethmalani appeared in include — the defence of Indira Gandhi’s alleged assassins, challenging the medical evidence on record; defending Narasimha Rao in a bribery case; defending Ketan Parekh in a stock market scam; appearing in a case involving Mumbai mafia gang leader, Haji Mastan.

He spoke on record against the death sentence of Afzal Guru, though he had not taken up the case.

He defended Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin encounter case, Amit Jogi in the Jaggi murder case. He also appeared for Sanjay Chandra’s bail in the 2G spectrum case, Kulbhushan Parashar’s bail in the navy war room leak case.

Jethmalani defended Kanimozhi in the 2G spectrum case, appeared in Y. S. Jaganmohan Reddy’s special leave petition on stay for C.B.I. probe into money laundering in his companies and appeaed in Yeddyurappa’s case on an illegal mining scam.

He defended A. G. Perarivalan, T Suthendraraja alias Santhan, and Sriharan alias Murugan, all convicted in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case; defended Ramdev in case of alleged use of force on his followers at Ramlila grounds on 4 June 2011; defended Shiv Sena in Krishna Desai’s murder; defended Asaram Bapu in the Jodhpur sexual assault case.

Furthemore, he defended Lalu Prasad Yadav in the Supreme Court and appeared for his bail in the fodder scam case, on 13 December 2013. He even appeared for Subrata Roy in the Sahara-SEBI case; appeared for AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa, convicted in a disproportionate assets case by the Karnataka High Court; and appeared for AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal, in a defamation case filed by Arun Jaitley.

He had announced his retirement from the legal profession on 9th September 2017.

Political Career:

Jethmalani as a refugee himself had a soft corner for the matters involving India and Pakistan. He always advocated for better relations between the two Countries and seek the same throughout his political career.

Backed and supported by Bhartiya Jan Sangh and Shiv Sena, he contested as an independent candidate from Ulhasnagar but unfortunately, he lost the elections.

He was the Chairman of Bar Association of India during the emergency period of 1975-1977.

He was a critic of then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi.

An arrest warrant was issued against him from Kerala which was stayed by the Bombay high court when over three hundred lawyers, led by Nani Palkhivala, appeared for him. However, the stay was nullified by the habeas corpus judgment in Additional District Magistrate of Jabalpur v. Shiv Kant Shukla.

Jethmalani exiled himself in Canada carrying on his campaign against the emergency as he believed that he could be of great use outside the Country. He returned to India ten months later after the emergency was lifted i.e., in the year 1977.

While in Canada, his candidature for the Parliament was filed from the Bombay North-West constituency. He won the election and retained the seat in 1980 general elections but lost to Sunil Dutt in 1985.

In 1977 when he returned back to India, he fought the General Elections where he defeated then serving Union Law Minister H.R Gokhale from Bombay in the Lok Sabha Elections, and hence started his political career as parliamentarian. However, due to disapproval by Morarji Desai due to his lifestyle he was not made Law Minister himself.

In the cabinet of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in the year 1996, he was made Union Minister of Law, Justice and Company affairs & in the year 1988 he became the member of Rajya Sabha.

He was given the portfolio of Union Minister of Urban Affairs and Employment, during the second tenure of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

On 13th Oct 1999 his portfolio was again updated, and he sworn again as the Union Minister of Law, Justice and Company Affairs.

He was asked to resign by the prime minister following differences with then chief justice of India Adarsh Sein Anand and Attorney General of India Soli Sorabjee. He was inducted into the cabinet on home Minister Lal Krishna Advani’s insistence.

While stating ‘I owe it to the Nation to offer my services’ he announced his candidature as the President of India.

In the year 1987 he launched his own political fronts, Bharat Mukti Morcha as ‘mass movement’

The political party Pavitra Hindustan Kazhagam was launched by him in the year 1995 with the motto to achieve transparency in the working of Indian Democracy.

He contested against Atal Bihari Vajpayee from the Lucknow constituency in the General Elections of 2004, as an individual candidate; unfortunately, he lost.

In the year 2010 he was given Rajya Sabha ticket by Bhartiya Janta Party from Rajasthan and he was elected.

He was also a member of Committee on Personal, Public Grievance, Law and Justice.

In the year 2012, he accused opposition BJP leaders to be ‘silent against the huge corruption’ within the ruling UPA-II government in a letter written by him to then BJP President Nitin Gadkari.

Later in the same year he also wrote a letter to L.K Advani asking for the removal of Nitin Gadkari as the President of the BJP, alleging him on the grounds of corruption.

For making anti-party statements, he was expelled from BJP for 6yrs, in May 2016.

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.

Political Timeline:

2006 – He was nominated to Rajya Sabha for a fourth term.

2006 – Member, Joint Committee to examine the Constitutional and Legal position relating to the Office of Profit.

2006 – Member, Consultative Committee for the Ministry of External Affairs and subsequently elected to Rajya Sabha for a fifth term.

2016 – He was elected to Rajya Sabha for the sixth term from Bihar.

2019 – Member, National Council for Senior Citizens.


K. M. Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra

Jethmalani’s spectacular journey as a lawyer began in the 1950s when he became involved in the famous Nanavati murder case of 1962 – a love-triangle where a naval officer was tried for the murder of his wife’s alleged lover.

Though Jethmalani wasn’t representing either one of the sides, he was hired by Mamie Ahuja, sister of Prem Ahuja, the man who had been shot dead, to look after the interests of her brother.

He was part of the infamous KM Nanavati vs State of Maharashtra case along with Yashwant Vishnu Chandrachud, who later served as the Chief Justice of India from 22 February 1978 to 11 July 1985.

A young Naval officer, Kawas Nanavati, shot dead his wife Sylvia’s paramour, Prem Ahuja, after discovering that he had no intention of marrying her or accepting their children as his own. The case was among the first to be put to a media trial and the last to be decided by a jury.

Jethmalani assisted the Public Prosecutor in framing the arguments first in the trial court and then later in the High Court. His strategy and line of cross-examination ensured that Nanavati was held guilty.

However, when the conviction became a rallying point for the Parsi and the Sindhi community, to which Ahuja belonged, Jethmalani stepped in and convinced Ahuja’s sister, Mamie Ahuja, to write a letter forgiving her brother’s killer. This case was a turning point for him which later established him in the erstwhile Bombay where he had moved from Karachi after Partition.

Kehar Singh & Ors vs State (Delhi Admn.) on 3 August 1988

Jethmalani appeared in the case in the defence of Indira Gandhi’s alleged assassins, challenging the medical evidence on record.

Ram Jethmalani’s last futile battle to save Kehar Singh was fought in the Supreme Court. The apex court that heard two petitions during the working hours and a hurried last-minute plea found no merit.

“I am arguing under the shadow of two hangmen”, pleaded Jethmalani. For two hours, Jethmalani and Shanti Bhushan tried to impress that the President had not applied his mind on the mercy petition.

Their plea was that the evidence on which he was to be hanged was circumstantial. The five-judge bench headed by the Chief Justice refused to intervene.

These were the last words of Jethmalani: “If this court can’t intervene then it is not just my client who will hang tomorrow. Something much more vital will die. It will not be Kehar Singh who will be hanged; it will be decency and justice.”

Shanti Bhushan, who is the father of Prashant Bhushan, said, “In fact, the court must decide whether a man should ever be sentenced to death on the basis of circumstantial evidence alone. Circumstantial evidence can never remove that last lingering speck of doubt about a man’s guilt.”

The verdict of the apex Court was ‘Kehar Singh must be convicted and hanged on the morning of 6 January 1989, for his involvement the Indira Gandhi assassination, carried out by Satwant Singh and Beant Singh’.

L.K. Advani vs Central Bureau of Investigation on 1 April 1997

The lawyer never shied away from taking credit for getting the charge sheet against LK Advani quashed in the Hawala scam. He had revealed that he did it only because Advani’s wife Kamla was his rakhi sister (she died in 2016) and that he resisted initially as Jaitley was Advani’s first choice as lawyer.

Jethmalani’s relationship with Advani later soured as he blamed the latter for not withholding his expulsion from the BJP. He had also defended another BJP veteran Amit Shah free of cost in the 2005 Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case.

Harshad S. Mehta & Ors vs The State of Maharashtra on 6 September, 2001

Jethmalani defended Harshad Mehta in a stock market scam. When the Harshad Mehta stock market scam was unearthed in 1992, it is understood to have catapulted the status of Mumbai-based lawyers.

Harshad and his brothers hired Ram Jethmalani to defend them after nearly 70-odd criminal cases were lodged against the Mehta family. The Harshad Mehta case also probably marked the beginning of serious money coming into the legal profession.

Lalu Prasad Yadav & Anr vs State of Bihar & Anr on 1 April, 2010

Jethmalani represented RJD chief and former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav who was involved in the fodder scam which broke out in the year 1996. Fodder scam case relates to the fraudulent withdrawal of around Rs. 1000cr. by the Animal Husbandry Department of various Districts when Lalu was the Bihar Chief Minister from 1990 to 1997.

Siddharth Vashisht @ Manu Sharma vs State (Nct Of Delhi) on 19 April 2010

Jethmalani 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. The High Court ruled Sharma guilty of murdering Jessica Lal and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

After conviction, he was imprisoned in the Tihar Jail. Sharma appealed to the Supreme Court of India through his counsel Ram Jethmalani. However, the Court upheld his sentence of life imprisonment on 19 April 2010.

Amitbhai vs Central Bureau of Investigation on 29 October 2010

Jethmalani defended Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin encounter case. Ram Jethmalani submitted that the background in which the alleged conspiracy is said to have taken place between the Gujarat and Rajasthan police to eliminate Sohrabuddin, which led to filing of the case. Amit Shah, was falsely implicated in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case in a bid to “destabilise the Narendra Modi government.”

Making this submission before the Supreme Court, he said the Central Bureau of Investigation went to the extent of describing Mr. Shah as the head of a “crime syndicate” and that the crime was the result of an extortion racket.

The CBI officers should be prosecuted and jailed for making such an allegation without evidence, counsel told a Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Desai, which is hearing final arguments on the agency’s petition for cancellation of bail to Mr. Shah and for transfer of the Sohrabuddin case outside Gujarat.

Sant Shri Asharam Bapu vs State on 10 February 2014

When Jethmalani was asked during an interview with the Wall Street Journal if he had accepted Bapu as his client because the latter paid him well, the barrister had replied: “Of course, naturally.”

In true criminal defence lawyer style, Jethmalani refused to pass judgement on Bapu, saying, “It is not an open-and-shut case by any chance. What happened in that room is only between Bapu and she (the minor victim).”

In a TV interview, Jethmalani cited the lawyers’ equivalent of the Hippocratic Oath: “I decide according to my conscience who to defend. A lawyer who refuses to defend a person on the grounds that people believe him to be guilty is himself guilty of professional misconduct.”

State of Karnataka vs. Selvi J. Jayalalitha & Ors on 14th February 2017

Jethmalani appeared for AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa, convicted in a disproportionate assets case by the Karnataka High Court. The long-drawn case involving the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and the disproportionate assets case dragged on till the minister’s death. He defended Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa in a corruption case. Jayalalithaa was one of the last in a long list of controversial clients, but he had insisted that he was constrained by law to take briefs when they approached him.

Arun Jaitley vs Arvind Kejriwal on 12 December 2017

Ram Jethmalani also represented Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal in the civil and criminal defamation suits filed by the late Arun Jaitley in 2015 where the former Union minister had sought Rs 10 crores in damages. Kejriwal went on to lose the case and apologized but Jaitley did not press for the payment.

Jethmalani countered Jaitley on his claim that the damage he suffered (through Kejriwal’s allegations of fraud during Jaitley’s tenure with the Delhi and District Cricket Association) was ‘unquantifiable’.

Jethmalani asked Jaitley: “Was it your own feeling about your greatness that it could not be quantified in fiscal measures? Can you assign any objective reason besides the value you are placing on yourself?” This statement was made in reference to Jaitley demanding Rs 10 crores in damage.

To quote a March 2017 Caravan article titled ‘Contempt in Court: Notes From Jethmalani’s Face-off With Jaitley’, Jethmalani’s questions and counter questions to Jaitley had such an effect that – The lawyer, who had charged Arvind Kejriwal Rs 3.8 crores, said that he had actually given his client a discount.

“I have not asked for the retainer fee I normally charge my other clients. I have also reduced the fee for each appearance in court. Moreover, I have not charged him a penny for the elaborate conferences prior to each hearing in the trial court,” he said.

Research By- Khushboo Asrani

Related Post