Ram Jethmalani's "First Brush With Politics"

11 September 2017

On 9 September, the veteran lawyer Ram Jethmalani announced his retirement from legal practice. Jethmalani will turn 94 on 14 September, and his retirement comes after spending over seven decades as an advocate at the bar. In an interview he gave to the web publication LiveLaw after announcing his retirement, Jethmalani said, “I want to do some important work in my life. I want to save India from corrupt politicians.” 

In her book Courting Politics, Shweta Bansal recounts the lives of nine lawyer-politicians, of whom Jethmalani is one. Bansal writes that these nine men comprise some of India’s “most distinguished legal luminaries who have gone on to dominate the political arena and continue to hold sway.” In the foreword to the book, the senior advocate Fali S Nariman writes that “with the re-emergence, after over three decades, of a super-majoritarian government,” it is not possible for lawyer-politicians to be loyal to both the parliament and the judiciary. Nariman continues: “Each of these nine men must now make a choice and it is a dilemma that they face—a dilemma that did not trouble the lawyer-politicians of yesteryear.” In the following excerpt from the book, Bansal recounts Jethmalani’s foray into politics and how he holds the BJP stalwart LK Advani responsible for his expulsion from the party in 2013.

The Nanavati case also brought Ram close to the then Defence Minister VK Krishna Menon. Ram even campaigned for Krishna Menon in the 1962 elections. This was Ram’s first brush with politics and his love affair with it continues to this day. “Politics is also a matter of interest and gives you a sense of satisfaction that you have done your job well,” says Ram. He would often be called by Krishna Menon to help him with his political speeches and translations of his English speeches to Hindi. Ram always did as he pleased and at one instance, while translating the speech from English to Hindi realised that it would not hold the interest of the audience; he added elements of humour to the speech without telling Krishna Menon. When the crowd burst out laughing, Menon was shocked.

Shweta Bansal is a lawyer who joined the Indian Foreign Services after winning a three-year long case with the government about her rank and cadre in 2016. Courting Politics is her debut book.

Keywords: LK Advani lawyer Ram Jethmalani