I would definitely fall short of words, if I am asked to describe this legend- A person who has been a mentor, guide and an inspiration to me. My first meeting with Ram Sir was as a law student. On the first day of my internship, I was informed that I need to accompany him to the Patiala House Court, where he was going to cross-examine a witness. 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 years 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.” He further added that cross examination is one of the most important skills which a lawyer must develop.
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.
Days went by and while my association continued with his chamber, I saw in him a role model and a mentor. 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. I fondly remember the day, when he 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.
There is absolutely no denial to the kind of hard work he used to put in each day and the number of hours he used to spend on a single brief. Even on a non-working day, he used to sit at his table at 10:30 A.M. straight upto 8:00 P.M., when he used to get up for his evening drink. Every time I met him his foremost question was about the most recent case, that I worked on, the issue involved in that matter, my opinion, etc…
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- when at times there was pin drop silence even in a badly crowded court room.
Being an outrageous and a rebellious lawyer in the courtroom on one hand he was absolutely the opposite in his personal life. He was one of the most gentle and humble persons, I’ve ever met. His benevolent attitude bought smiles on millions of faces. A friend of many- Ram Jethmalani was the compassionate and kind human being, I’ve ever met.
His life was extricably woven with the court and the court of justice. Those years of watching him, was a phenomenal experience for me. 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. 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 regularly. His love for legal education, students and law universities had no boundaries.
It’s been an year since we lost him, but still we can feel the the emptiness in the courtroom corridors. 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 his principles and his teachings have been and will continue to guide us for the years to come.
You are so loved, so missed and so cherished by so many, now and forever…..
In fond memory of Mr. Ram Jethmalani
His dedicated student- Tanvi Dubey
† Senior Associate, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas