Eminent lawyer Ram Jethmalani on Tuesday said he will treat Arvind Kejriwal as his ‘poor client’ if the Delhi government ‘can’t pay’ his remuneration for fighting for the Chief Minister in a defamation case in a city court. Underlining that he will appear for Kejriwal for ‘free’, Jethmalani accused Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley of ‘instigating’ the row over multi-crore fees reportedly charged by the lawyer. Jethmalani also took a dig at Jaitley, saying the FM is ‘afraid’ of his ‘cross-examination.’ ‘I charge only the rich but for poor I work for free,’ he added.
According to a report, Lt Governor Anil Baijal is learnt to have sought Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar’s advice in clearing bills of Jethmalani. The move by Baijal comes after the Law Department of Delhi Government, responding to a letter by Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, said that LG’s permission for clearing the bills was necessary.
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In December, Sisodia had asked for releasing appearance fee to noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani who has been fighting defamation case slapped against Kejriwal by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, according to the report.
They said that the amount of pending dues to the noted lawyer is nearly Rs 4 crore and the Law Department had opinioned that why Delhi Government should foot the bills when the case is not related to the city administration.
It has been learned that the Lt Governor is learnt to have written to Kumar seeking his advice on whether the payment should be cleared or not, the report said.
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Notably, Ram Jethmalani’s retainer is Rs 1 crore and his appearance fee per court visit is Rs 22 lakh.
On March 7, Jaitley was subjected to intense grilling for his Rs 10 crore civil defamation suit against Kejriwal in the Delhi High Court in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s name was sought to be dragged by noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani. Jaitley, who termed the question referring to the Prime Minister as “scandalous”, faced a barrage of questions including selective targetting of Kejriwal when other politicians had also raised the issue of corruption against him in the DDCA. Jethmalani, who continued his cross-examination of the Minister for second consecutive day on behalf of Kejriwal, also incurred the displeasure of Joint Registrar Amit Kumar for asking some questions, like he had advised Modi “not to set you (Jaitley) up” as a candidate from Amritsar Lok Sabha seat which he eventually lost in the last elections. Another question that why Jaitley did not sue former spin wizard Bishan Singh Bedi for raising the issue of graft in Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) which he headed for 13 years, was also disallowed by the Joint Registrar who said under the Civil Procedure Code (CPC), he had every right to allow or reject the question of the counsel. An upset Jethmalani was left complaining that he was a senior advocate but his questions were being disallowed.
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The proceedings which lasted for around two hours saw Jethmalani, who was expelled from BJP for six years in 2013, claiming that Jaitley was allowed to hold his ministry on the promise to the Prime Minister that he will come clean in connection with the irregularities in DDCA. “The suggestion is denied in its entirety” was the reply of Jaitley who also said the “Prime Minister had not said anything to him at any point of time. It is incorrect.” Senior advocates Rajiv Nayar, Sandeep Sethi and Pratibha M Singh, appearing for the Finance Minister, interrupted with one voice when Jethmalani was trying to link the case with the Prime Minister and termed it as “scandalous”. There was also an exchange of words between Jaitley’s and Kejriwal’s advocates when Jethmalani said the Minister had told the Prime Minister that he will establish his reputation in the court against allegations made against him.
A bunch of lawyers in support of Kejriwal also shouted that the question referring to Prime Minister was “not scandalous” and was linked to the civil defamation suit filed by Jaitley seeking Rs 10 crore damages from Kejriwal and five other AAP leaders — Raghav Chadha, Kumar Vishwas, Ashutosh, Sanjay Singh and Deepak Bajpai — for accusing him of financial irregularities in the DDCA of which he was the President from 2000 to 2013. The court drama also saw Jethmalani raking up the name of a woman, who on social media has been supporting Modi but had tweeted about the corruption in DDCA and who was spared by Jaitley with no legal action against her. He has also not dragged other politicians like Sitaram Yechury, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge and Ajay Maken for going public on the affairs of the cricket body, Jethmalani said. While referring to a letter by former captain Bishan Singh Bedi allegedly regarding the Finance Minister’s involvement in the DDCA, Jethmalani asked Jaitely was he aware of any such letter written to the Prime Minister.
(With agency inputs)