Ram Jethmalani tribute: He could carry the day with him, says family friend

Updated: Sep 09, 2019, 07:42 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

Tribute: Ram Jethmalani, razor sharp in court, and a man who loved sai bhaaji, books and ice cream - not necessarily in that order

Anita Shekhar-Castellino with Ram Jethmalani
Anita Shekhar-Castellino with Ram Jethmalani

Gitanjali Gurbaxani, a friend of the Jethmalani family, has one enduring memory of the late legal eagle, Ram Jethmalani. "It is of 'uncle Ram' savouring ice cream," the Cuffe Parade resident said with a laugh. "If there was one thing he loved, it was a scoop of ice cream after a meal. He also loved ghar ka (home made) Sindhi food like sai bhaaji," said Gurbaxani, adding, "he would eat the ice cream in little, baby spoons, savouring it.

Gurbaxani added that Jethmalani's skill as orator, was "evident in court, but also at family gatherings." "His work was his passion and he was a voracious reader. For him, books were to be venerated. First of course were law books, but he thought there is something to learn from every book. I wanted to launch my cancer cookbook 'Fight Cancer with Flavour' in Delhi, and he said, "I will play host at the launch" and so it was launched on Ram Jethmalani's home lawns in 2016," she said.

Gurbaxani was close to Ram Jethmalani's son Janak, who passed away three years ago. Gurbaxani said, "Janak and I were avid racing followers. I thought we should keep Janak's memory alive at the Mahalaxmi race course by naming a race after him. We began the Janak Ram Jethmalani Memorial Trophy in 2017 at Mahalaxmi. Though Ram Jethmalani did not know our racing circle, he fully supported the thought of keeping the memory alive through this trophy."

For High Court advocate R M Tiwari, 79, practicing for the past 50 years, "Ram Jethmalani's signature style was his thorough approach and meticulousness. In court, though he was concise he would also be extremely expressive at the same time. He was not bothered about what the judge would think. This is a fear that holds some professionals back. Yet, Ram Jethmalani was so confident that he could simply carry the day in court."

Tiwari added, "Jethmalani had a sharp wit. He could crack a joke in the court room, and he could get the judge thinking about his arguments." The advocate said that Jethmalani's legacy is, "one of frankness and boldness. His may not have been the popular opinion, but he was unafraid to give it. That is one sterling trait that the young in any field should aim to emulate. You can do so only when you are extremely well-read, sharp and knowledgeable about your subject."

Young guns

For advocate Anita Shekhar-Castellino, "His advice will always resonate with me. Ram Jethmalani used to say, "surround yourself with people younger than you, then you will always remain energetic and full of new ideas."

Gitanjali Gurbaxani with Jethmalani
Gitanjali Gurbaxani with Jethmalani

Advocate Raju Moray said, "Jethmalani was always the centre of attention. He relished the company of young people. He said it made him feel young. When we were junior lawyers, we never missed an opportunity to hear him. Later, when his appearances in court became rare, I would encourage my juniors to go and watch what I can only call his stellar court performance."

Shekhar-Castellino remembers one such brilliant Ram Jethmalani moment. She said, "Jethmalani knew the law like the back of his hand. I remember once in the High Court, he was arguing a matter. He cited a judgment in the days when we would hand over the book to the judge instead of a xerox. The junior assisting him handed over the book and the judge was about to open it.

Jethmalani told the judge not to bother as even the comma and full stop was exactly like he said. Jethmalani was quoting the judgment from memory without opening the book! The judge didn't open the book and accepted his word. His memory was flawless and he had a great court presence. He always told juniors that every lawyer is always a student and must never stop learning." One piece of Jethmalani's advice Shekhar-Castellino signed off with is, "Jethmalani's advice was to keep two law journals besides one's bed. Before you sleep you must always read at least two law journals daily."

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