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Ram Jethmalani’s Rs 1 cr retainer to Kejriwal causes flutters, but RamJet says he’ll do it pro bono after all if he must

RamJet’s standard retainer for ‘rich clients’: A cool Rs 1 crore
RamJet’s standard retainer for ‘rich clients’: A cool Rs 1 crore

Ram Jethmalani, apparently proposed to charge Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejrriwal a Rs 1 crore retainer and Rs 22 lakhs per appearance to defend him against political rival Arun Jaitley’s defamation claim.

The letter with that proposal sent by his private secretary Sanjay Kumar, dated 1 December 2016, and Delhi law minister Manish Sisodia accepting Jethmalani’s billing terms, went viral on WhatsApp, and was quickly followed by news reports that the Delhi government was proposing to have the total Rs 3.8 crore legal bills in the personal case between Kejriwal and Jaitley settled by the Delhi government (see NDTV.com). Other than whether the taxpayer should pay for Kejriwal’s legal defence for statements against Jaitley arguably made outside of his capacity as an elected official, this was notable from a lawyers’ perspective for several reasons:

  1. Jethmalani had famously offered to represent Kejriwal pro bono in this case.
  2. Jethmalani had a lot of fun cross-examining one of his arch-enemies Jaitley in the Delhi high court in this matter (read this excellent account in the Caravan of their encounter).

And so, it is not surprising that Jethmalani probably won’t be charging Kejriwal after all.

ANI tweeted just now:

I charge only the rich but for poor I work for free. All this is instigated by Mr.Jailtley who’s afraid of my cross-examination-Jethmalani https://t.co/NNqOjCmlHZ

— ANI (@ANI_news) Tue, 04 Apr 2017, 10:30

Even now if govt (Delhi) doesn’t pay or he can’t pay will appear for free,will treat him(Kejriwal) as one of my poor clients: Ram Jethmalani… https://t.co/s3WGQXoRyr

— ANI (@ANI_news) Tue, 04 Apr 2017, 10:31

Oh, and one more thing: while we all knew Jethmalani charged in the region of Rs 25 lakh per appearance, making him India’s most expensive senior counsel amongst an already expensive lot, we should now update our senior counsel fees table to include his standard Rs 1 crore retainer for rich clients.

Also worth noting is that Jethmalani is one of the most exclusive counsel who picks and chooses his cases carefully, so it’s not like he’s billing those kind of numbers every day.

And while some younger advocates will aspire to that kind of practice when they’re 93 years old, it may be safe to say that the odds are impossible that anyone else will ever manage to have a career quite like Ram Jethmalani’s...

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