Words are not enough to describe this fearless, courageous, outspoken and unapologetic personality. To say that he led an illustrious life, would be an understatement.
My first meeting with Ram Sir was as a law student, who was extremely fortunate to get an opportunity to intern with the legal legend himself. On the first day of my internship, I was informed that I need to accompany Ram Sir to the Patiala House Court, where he was going for a cross-examination. Having heard a lot about his incisive art of cross examination, I was extremely curious and delighted to witness the same. While on our way to the court, he asked me whether it was the first cross examination which I was witnessing. To which I replied in affirmative. Upon hearing so, he said lets chat after the cross-examination session.
When he entered the court premises, every lawyer who saw him, even if from a distance, rushed to him to either shake hands or touch his feet. And when he started the cross-examination, I was awestruck to witness the dedication and commitment with which he continued to cross examine for almost 3 hours, at a stretch and mind you I am talking about the period when he was 90 plus. While on our way back to office, he asked me what was it that I noticed during cross examination. I told him everything that I took a note of. He told me "..this is a skill you acquire through long experience and long introspection..If somebody wants to really read what interesting cross-examination can be, you should read the cross-examination of Mr Oscar Wilde in his defamation case which was filed against (Lord Alfred) Douglas' father…".
Days went by and while my association continued with his chamber, I saw in him a role model and a mentor. Each meeting with him taught me a new lesson, which not only helped me understand the basic nuances of law but also helped me learn several life changing lessons. There was always somebody who needed his help, and he would help everyone in the best way, he possibly could-such was his magnanimity. I'm sure there are hundreds of people who have many such stories about the phenomenon that was Ram Jethmalani-who earned reverence in the greatest measures.
From his way of reading and interpreting the provisions of criminal law in a totally unique manner to the knack of making innovative arguments as a budding lawyer, I learnt thousands of skills just by observing him.
In his briefings, I saw him meticulously examining each detail in the matter and also saw him questioning the Client even on the minutest details of his case, so as to get absolute clarity on the facts of the case. He came up with a hidden conclusion and an argument from the devilish details leaving the rest of us marvelling at the man's foresight and intellect.
For him the courtroom was a stage and he was an actor. He bought empathy and passion in every case he fought for. His way of framing an argument and also presenting it- was undoubtedly magical- one would witness the same by seeing pin-drop silence in a crowded court room, when Ram Sir started his argument. He had absolute clarity in his arguments and also presented them in the most understandable manner.
The energy with which he would argue a matter was also because of an extremely healthy routine that he followed all his life and also the small and short meals, which he used to have. He followed the wag's dictum with great discipline- breakfast like a King; lunch like a Prince and dinner like a pauper. Even in his 90's, he used to also play badminton, every morning. His love for legal education, students and law universities had no boundaries. He was a completely self-made, reaching Mumbai practically penniless and yet making it big by his wit, tenacity, determination and back-breaking hard-work.
Ram Sir was definitely larger than life. From Independence, to emergency, to Rajiv Gandhi assassination to 2 G Scam- you name any crucial event or a high profile matter and his name is there. It would be apt to say that he saw India growing, which was also reflected in many of his arguments.
I fondly remember the day, when he himself gave a copy of his biography "Maverick, Unchanged, Unrepentant" with a note which read "…If you have chosen this profession..be prepared to put in relentless amount of effort and hard work..there is no substitute to hard work and there is absolute delight in putting your best efforts in what you are doing." These words motivated me when I started my journey as a young lawyer and will continue to be the guiding light for the years to come.
I have no words to thank him for the role he has played in my life as a mentor, role model and an inspiration. Although he is not with us anymore but I am sure his principles and his teachings will guide us for the years to come.
In fond memory of Mr. Ram Jethmalani on his first death anniversary.
His dedicated student- Tanvi Dubey
Views are personal only.