New Delhi, Apr 4 (PTI) Veteran lawyer Ram Jethmalani today said he will defend Arvind Kejriwal in the defamation case slapped against him by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley without charging any fee if the Delhi Chief Minister cannot afford to pay him.
Jethmalani also hit out at Jaitley, alleging that the row over the Delhi government’s move to clear his bills has been “instigated” by the Union Finance Minister as “he is afraid of my cross-examination”.
Meanwhile, the ruling AAP alleged that Jaitley was paid “large” retainership fee for defending a private firm when it was mired in the 2G scam and that there is nothing wrong in the government making payments to a lawyer defending the Chief Minister from public exchequer. It said a “penniless” AAP and Kejriwal cannot “afford” expensive lawyers.
“I will certainly defend him even if he can’t pay, but he said ‘no, I want to pay, send us the bills’, so I have sent the bills. Even if the government does not support him, I will. Even if he cannot pay, I will fight the case for free.
“If necessary, I will support him for his livelihood because he is a clean force compared to Arun Jaitley,” said Jethmalani.
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had recently directed the General Administration Department to clear the bills totalling around Rs 3 crore to Jethmalani. It is learnt that Lt Governor Anil Baijal has sought Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar’s advice on the issue.
Addressing an election rally, Kejriwal defended his government’s move, suggesting Jaitley filed the case after he raised the issue of alleged corruption in Delhi and District Cricket Association when the BJP leader was at the helm of it.
“In Delhi there was massive corruption in cricket. You must have heard of DDCA. It was heavily corrupt. Youngsters used to come to me and complain that money is sought for selection.
“I initiated a probe into it. Then BJP filed a case against me. We hired top lawyer Ram Jethmalani. They ask why should the government pay? Should I pay from my pocket? They want to weaken the fight against corruption,” he said.
Jethmalani said 90 per cent of his clients are poor and he fights their cases free of cost, adding he was willing to consider Kejriwal as one of his “poor clients”.
“Everybody knows my normal daily fee is Rs 22.2 lakh, or more, perhaps the retainer, plus conference charges. You can enquire from anybody. But, for 90 per cent of my clients, I do free work,” he said.
Jethmalani even cited an instance of a case in which he had fought for “free” a case related to BJP.
“I have done free work in a case related to BJP too, and the BJP could pay. The case was of BJP elected members set aside by the Bombay High Court…they pleaded Hindutva, and I fought the case for free in the Supreme Court.
“And, it was a landmark judgement by the court, when I proved to it that Hindutva is not the name of religion,” he said.
The BJP termed the Delhi government’s move to clear bills as “dacoity and loot” of public money and said it will not let it happen.
Union Minister Prakash Javadekar alleged that Kejriwal was dragged to court by Jaitley for his “personal crime” and the Delhi government’s decision to foot the bill is against the law and rules of the government.
Jethmalani said it is the government’s duty to defend the Chief Minister.
Sisodia said it is not a personal legal battle that Kejriwal is fighting and the case stemmed from a probe ordered by the Delhi government to clean up corruption in cricket administration in the city.
“The government will fight the case,” he told reporters.
In a series of tweets, AAP leader Ashish Khetan, a former journalist, said Jaitley is a “rich man” so he can afford expensive lawyers.
“@narendramodi ji, your FM has made his money defending big ppl involved in big scams. @ArvindKejriwal all his life has defended the poor (sic),” he tweeted.
Khaitan said, “What is most important that large retainership fee was paid to @arunjaitley at a time when Anil Ambani & his companies were mired in 2G scam.” Jethmalani said he has not received any money from the Delhi government so far and voiced displeasure at media questioning him on the issue.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.