Defamation case: Ram Jethmalani hits back, says Arun Jaitley instigating row because he is scared

With the MCD elections round the corner, Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener Arvind Kejriwal has found himself mired in a new controversy. On Monday, reports said that Kejriwal, who was embroiled in a high-powered legal battle with Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, had sent his legal bill of Rs 3.42 crore to Lieutenant-General Anil Baijal's office for clearance.

As the report started flashing on every TV channel, lawyer Ram Jethmalani, who was among the battery of lawyers that Kejriwal hired for the defamation case, said that he would work for free if the Delhi chief minister cannot pay him his fees. "Even now if the government doesn't pay or he can't pay, I will appear free. I will then treat him as one of my poor clients," Jethmalani told ANI in an exclusive conversation.

'Frustrated' over reports suggesting that Baijal has sought Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar's advice in clearing the bills, Jethmalani said they are all in Jaitley's control. Jethmalani further said that he charges only the rich clients.

"Everybody knows this in this country that I charge only the rich, but for poor people I do work free and the poor people are about 90 percent of my client," he said. Meanwhile, backing Jethmalani's claim that he takes up cases for the poor on a pro bono basis, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav told ANI that the lawyer had no dearth of money. Dubbing Jethmalani chacha, Lalu said that the lawyer never took a penny from him.

According to The Times Of India, the bill raised by Jethmalani on 1 December, 2016, quotes a Rs 1 crore retainer for representing Kejriwal and an additional Rs 22 lakh per appearance. Jethmalani made 11 appearances so far, leading to a total of Rs 3.42 crore, even before the cross examination stage is over.

In December, Sisodia had asked for releasing appearance fee to Jethmalani who has been fighting defamation case slapped against Kejriwal by Jaitley, sources have told PTI. They said that the amount of pending dues to the noted lawyer is more than Rs 3 crore and the law department had said that why the Delhi government should foot the bills when the case is not related to the city administration.

Experts have said that Kejriwal and Jaitley were fighting the case in their personal capacities and if Kejriwal wanted it to be a matter involving as the chief minister he should have invoked Section 80 of the Civil Procedure Code. Baijal is learnt to have sought Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar's advice in clearing the bills submitted by deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia who had signed off on the bills.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Apr 04, 2017 14:03 PM

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