Biography of Advocate Ram Jethmalani: (1923-2019)

Early Background

Ram Boolchand Jethmalani, born on 14th September 1923, was a magnificent lawyer and a politician. He was born in Shikarpur, Sindh, then Bombay Presidency (presently in Pakistan) to Boolchand Gurmukhdas Jethmalani and Parbati Boolchand.[1]

He got a two-fold advancement in school and finished matriculation when he was just 13 years old. Mr Jethmalani acquired his LL.B. degree at 17 years old from Bombay University with First Class Distinction and began specializing in legal matters in Shikarpur until the partition of India. The partition drove him to move to Mumbai as a refugee, where he started his life and profession once again. Around then, the base age for turning into a lawyer was 21, yet a special exemption permitted him to turn into a legal counsellor at 18 years old.[2] He also got his LL.M. from Bombay University.

Jethmalani wedded his first spouse, Durga, in a customary Indian arranged marriage around 18. In 1947, not long before partition, he wedded his subsequent spouse, Ratna Shahani, a lawyer by profession. His family includes his wives and four children (Rani, Shobha, Mahesh, Janak). Mahesh and Rani have been Supreme Court lawyers while Mahesh is additionally a BJP leader and Rani, a social activist.[3]

Legal Career

Even before the partition, he started practicing as a lawyer by starting his law firm in Karachi, Pakistan, with his friend A.K Brohi.[4] In February 1948, when riots broke out in Karachi, he fled to India, and when he came to India on that day, he had only INR 10 in his pocket, and with that note, he stayed in the refugee camp for few days.[5]

He battled his first case in the court of Justice Godfrey Davis against the rule passed by the Sindh Bar Council declaring minimum age to be a Lawyer. In Discussion with Algebra in June 2017, he recollected the first case he fought and won as a refugee in India. It was regarding the inhumane manner adopted to treat the refugees under the newly introduced Bombay Refugees Act. He prayed to the Bombay High Court to declare the said law as unconstitutional.[6]

As a lawyer, he came to be noted for his appearance in the Nanavati case in 1959 with Yeshwant Vishnu Chandrachud, who later turned into India\’s Chief Justice. His guard of series of cases undertaken by him in the late 1960s created his image as \”Bootlegger\’s Legal Advisor\”, to which he referenced that he was just carrying out his responsibility as an advocate.

At the Government Law College, Mumbai, he became a part-time professor for both graduation and postgraduates. He also taught comparative law at the Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.[7]Before and after an emergency, he has completed four tenures as a chairperson of the Bar Council of India. He became a member of the International Bar Association in 1966. He has served as the Professor Emeritus for Symbiosis International University law schools.[8] In 2010, he was also elected as the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association.[9]

High Profile Cases Lead by Mr. Ram Jethmalani

During his career as a lawyer, he has defended many high profile cases such as:

  • Harshad Mehta Case
  • Ketan Parekh Case
  • Indira Gandhi Assassination Case
  • Defended Rajiv Gandhi\’s killer
  • L. K. Advani in Hawala Scam
  • Jay Lalitha\’s disproportionate asset case
  • Manu Sharma, accused of Jessica Lal Murder case
  • Lalit Modi Case, former chairman of Indian Premier League
  • Haji Mastan Case
  • 2G Spectrum Case
  • Asaram Bapu in Jodhpur Sexual Harassment Case
  • Sahara- SEBI case of Subrata Roy
  • Defended Arvind Kejriwal (when late Mr. Arun Jaitley filed defamation case)
  • Challenged Emergency (one amongst twelve lawyers)
  • Amit Shah fake encounter case
  • B S Yeddyurappa Illegal Mining Case

Political Career

The partition experience led Mr. Jethmalani to advocate for better relations among India and Pakistan, which he looked for through his political profession. With the support of Shiv Sena and Bhartiya Janta Sangh he contested the election from Ulhasnagar; however, he lost the election.[10]He criticized Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as the chairman of the Bar Association of India for implementing an emergency. An arrest warrant was issued against him from Kerala. In this case, over 300 lawyers led by Nani Palkhiwala appeared before Bombay High Court, and the stay under it was nullified.[11] In the year 1977 general elections after the emergency, he won against then serving Union law serve H. R. Gokhale from Bombay in the Lok Sabha races, and consequently began his political profession as a parliamentarian.[12] However, he was not appointed as law minister because Morarji Desai objected to his way of life.

During his political career, he enjoyed the membership of both the parliament houses; Rajya Sabha Member (1988), Law and Justice Minister (1996, 1998) and Union Minister of Urban Affairs Minister. He was inducted into the cabinet on Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani\’s insistence.[13]He once announced his candidature as President of India and launched his political party called Pavitra Hindustan Kazhagam.


Mr. Ram Jethmalani was an astounding lawyer. The series of the case which he undertook is the proof. He always owned whatever he did in his life, and his journey was definitely an inspiration for practicing as well as budding lawyers. 

[1] \”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.

[2] Archived4 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine Ram Jethmalani: In black and white: Times New Network, 12 May 2002.

[3]Deshpande, Vinaya (1 January 2012). \”Social activist Rani Jethmalani passes away\”The Hindu. Retrieved 8 September 2019.

[4] Archived 4 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine Ram Jethmalani: In black and white: Times New Network, 12 May 2002.

[5]Das, Arun Kumar; Singh, Sanghita (12 May 2002). \”Ram Jethmalani: In black and white\”. Archived from the original on 22 April 2010. Retrieved 30 December 2010.

[6]\”Ram jethmalani\’s most candid interview – on Modi, BJP and his sole ambition in life at 94 (29 June 2017)\”You tube – algebra channel. ALGEBRA conversations. Archived from the original on 11 June 2018. Retrieved 12 June 2018.

[7]Das, Arun Kumar; Singh, Sanghita (12 May 2002). \”Ram Jethmalani: In black and white\”. Archived from the original on 22 April 2010. Retrieved 30 December 2010.

[8]] \”Honorary Faculty\”. Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA. Retrieved 9 September 2019.

[9]\”Jethmalani new SCBA president\”The Hindu. Chennai, India. 8 May 2010. Archived from the original on 14 May 2010. Retrieved 4 August 2010.

[10]Rajagopal, Krishnadas (8 September 2019). \”Ram Jethmalani, \’unchanged and unrepentant maverick\’\”The Hindu. New Delhi. Retrieved 9 September 2019.

[12] Archived4 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine Ram Jethmalani: In black and white: Times New Network, 12 May 2002.

[13]\”The Wrath of Ram: India Today\”. Archived from the original on 24 November 2010. Retrieved 30 December 2010

This article is authored by Prathana Patel, Student at GLS Law College, Ahmedabad.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views or opinions of Legally Flawless or its members.

Keywords: Lawyer| Senior Advocate | Law Firm | Law Minister | Legal Life

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