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Veteran jurist and former Union Minister Ram Jethmalani passes away at 95

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: September 8, 2019  | 20:41 IST

(Eds: Adding details of cremation, other information) New Delhi, Sep 8 (PTI) Eminent jurist and former Union minister Ram Jethmalani, who defended the accused in some of the most difficult and high-profile cases including the assassinations of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, passed away on Sunday at the age of 95. Jethmalani breathed his last at 7.45 am at his official residence in New Delhi. He was not keeping well for a few months, his son Mahesh Jethmalani told PTI. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visited the residence of Jethmalani to pay their last respects. His mortal remains were cremated at Lodhi road crematorium later in the evening in the presence of family members, friends and eminent people from various walks of life including Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Mahesh Jethmalani, a senior advocate himself, lit the funeral pyre. Ram Jethmalani's daughter Shobha and his daughter-in-law were also present. Tributes poured in for Jethmalani, who passed away just days before his 96th birthday on September 14, with President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah recalling his contribution and describing him as an "iconic public figure" who never shied away from boldly expressing himself on any subject. Jethmalani was a sitting member of Rajya Sabha from the RJD. He served as Union Law minister and also as Urban Development minister during the prime ministership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee against whom he later contested the 2004 Lok Sabha polls from Lucknow seat. He had earned the reputation of being a maverick politician who was not constrained by party lines and was characteristically forthright in his views. Modi said Jethmalani was "witty, courageous and never shied away from boldly expressing himself on any subject". "In the passing away of Shri Ram Jethmalani Ji, India has lost an exceptional lawyer and iconic public figure who made rich contributions both in the Court and Parliament," the prime minister tweeted. "He may not be here but his pioneering work will live on! Om Shanti," he said. Widely respected by the Bar and the Bench, he also served as the Supreme Court Bar Association president in 2010. "Saddened by the passing of Shri Ram Jethmalani, former Union Minister and a veteran lawyer. He was known to express his views on public issues with his characteristic eloquence. The nation has lost a distinguished jurist, a person of great erudition and intellect," the President's Secretariat tweeted. Naidu said Jethmalani was "one of the brilliant minds of Bharat" and the nation has lost "a distinguished jurist, a great intellectual and a patriot, who was active till his last breath". Home Minister Amit Shah said he was "deeply pained" to know about Jethmalani's demise and described it as an "irreparable loss" to the entire legal community. Attorney General K K Venugopal said the country has lost its "finest lawyer" who was bold and handled the most sensational criminal cases and constitutional matters. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta hailed Jethmalani as a "giant of a man" who was a rare combination of constitutional expertise, razor-sharp understanding of criminal law, and a "roaring tiger" when it came to defending his clients. Congress president Sonia Gandhi extended her condolences to his family and friends. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh hailed Jethmalani as "an able administrator and a seasoned parliamentarian". The Congress, on its official Twitter handle, said: "We are saddened by the loss of former Union Minister and veteran lawyer Shri Ram Jethmalani. Our thoughts & prayers are with this family today." BJP working president J P Nadda called Jethmalani a "legend of Bar". Jethmalani was elected as a member of Parliament in the sixth and seventh Lok Sabha on Janata Party and BJP tickets from Mumbai in 1977 and 1980 respectively. He came back to the BJP in 2010 and was elected to Rajya Sabha on the party ticket from Rajasthan. In 2013, Jethmalani was expelled from the BJP's primary membership for six years for "breach of discipline" and "anti-party" statements. He later filed a suit against the BJP for expelling him and sought Rs 50 lakh in damages. The matter was amicably settled after Shah expressed "regret" over his expulsion. Born in Shikarpur in Sindh province (now in Pakistan) in 1923, Jethmalani obtained a law degree at 17. As a lawyer, he rose to fame in 1959 when he was prosecutor in the K M Nanavati vs State of Maharashtra case in which a Naval Commander was tried for the murder of his wife's lover. His other high-profile cases included the Indira Gandhi assassination case in which he appeared for the accused. He defended former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's assassin in Madras High Court in 2011, Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh in stock market scam cases and Delhi University professor SAR Geelani in the Parliament attack case in 2001. He represented Manu Sharma, son of an influential Congress leader, in the Jessica Lall murder case. Jethmalani was lead petitioner in black money case during the previous UPA regime in the Supreme Court where he had argued for bringing back illegal money stashed in foreign banks. He was L K Advani's defence lawyer in the hawala case and Amit Shah's lawyer in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case. He was defence lawyer for late AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa in disproportionate assets case, DMK leader Kanimozhi in 2G scam trial, RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav in fodder scam case and for B S Yediyurappa in mining scam case. He argued for actor Sanjay Dutt's bail before the Supreme Court in the Mumbai blasts case. Jethmalani had asked 10 questions per day to Rajiv Gandhi in Bofors pay off case. He also defended the Hinduja brothers in the case in which the Delhi High Court had quashed all charges against them and others under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Several sitting and retired judges paid homage to Jethmalani. Among the politicians present at the cremation were Sharad Yadav and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. Besides Mahesh, the former Union minister is survived by his daughter based in the US. His other daughter Rani Jethmalani died in 2011 and another son Janak had also pre-deceased him. PTI RKS PKS RKS RT RT

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