Plaintive cries on Arun Jaitley’s demise cannot remain confined to his Kailash Colony residence, from where he shaped the destinies of many of his loved ones and unknowns. Poignancy of the occasion will be shared by thousands of his admirers, cutting across party lines, hailing from all over the country, who in varying degrees have benefitted from Jaitley’s magnanimity.
Corridors of Parliament and courts will miss the silhouette of his charismatic persona, the resonance of his emphatic voice echoing with equally exceptional command over Hindi and English, leaving behind an indelible imprint. His versatility was such that he could effortlessly wear many hats, that of a Parliamentarian, a Minister, a lawyer or a loyal friend or for that matter a benefactor to anyone who came in his contact. He had this ability to seamlessly fit into many a role and he would, in a most subtle manner emerge as a trouble-shooter for his party, for his government and for his colleagues on all critical occasions.
At 37, almost overnight, Arun Jaitley was designated as senior advocate and catapulted to the coveted position of Additional Solicitor General of India with a special responsibility of handling Bofors-related legal matters. He acquitted himself brilliantly and when he returned to private practice, he outshone almost all of his contemporaries and inarguably became the only lawyer, apart from Kapil Sibal, to put Delhi lawyers on the national map.
It is during this phase of his life that I, as a young counsel, had the privilege of meeting him through my friend Sanjay Karol, currently Chief Justice of Tripura High Court, in connection with a legal brief. I wanted him to appear before the Gauhati High Court and argue an Intellectual Property matter in writ jurisdiction, a proposition seemingly absurd in the first blush, which naturally met his disapproval in the first instance. Next morning, I received a call from Surinder, his then court clerk, asking me to come for a conference. To his credit, he accepted my point of view and agreed to do the matter, which gave me a lifetime opportunity to spend some quality time with him, professional, as well as personal. During our visits to Guwahati, I was fortunate enough to receive many pearls of wisdom from him, which I still cherish and try to adhere to.
He was erudite and equanimous, which reflected in his handling of cases as a lawyer. He filled the slot of a ‘guru’ in my life, and touched me with his integrity and intellect par excellence.
He was a Delhiwala to the core; he loved his walks and his food in the company of his friends. Be it corridors of courts and Parliament, his lawns or the living rooms of his friends, his void would remain forever, for he was sui generis. The words of Thucydides from the History of Peloponnesian War would be the best tribute to Arun Jaitley — “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others”.
The writer is a senior advocate and Additional Solicitor General in the Supreme Court of India