Not only has Ram Jethmalani quit as Arvind Kejriwal's lawyer, the senior Supreme Court lawyer has asked the Delhi Chief Minister to settle his legal fee of over ₹2 crore.
Jethmalani was representing Kejriwal in civil and criminal defamation cases brought against him and five other leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. The finance minister sued the Delhi chief minister after he accused the former of corruption during his term as head of the Delhi & District Cricket Association (DDCA).
Jethmalani quit on Tuesday after claiming that Kejriwal had instructed him to use derogatory language against Jaitley in court, and accusing the chief minister of using even worse language against the finance minister in private discussions, The Times of Indiareported today.
The reason for the fallout goes back to legal proceedings in the Delhi High Court on May 17, when Jethmalani described Jaitley as a "crook" in court. When Jaitley asked Jethmalani if his client had instructed him to use such language, the lawyer replied in the affirmative. Jaitley then said that he would seek yet another ₹10 crore in damages from Kejriwal alone.
"He (Arun Jaitley) is a crook and I will show this," Jethmalani said in the May 17 proceedings. When Jaitley objected, the lawyer said, "Let the court note that I am doing this with my client's consent." Jaitley said that he would seek "aggravated damages".
On Tuesday, Kejriwal filed an affidavit in the Delhi High Court, claiming that Jethmalani was "not instructed" to use derogatory words against the finance minister. The affidavit read, "With due respect, it is submitted that neither Kejriwal nor the counsel briefing the senior counsel Jethmalani gave instructions to the senior counsel to use the objectionable words on May 17, 2017."
Kejriwal said that it was "inconceivable that he would even think of instructing the senior counsel to use such objectionable words".
In April, Jethmalani acknowledged that Kejriwal could not afford to pay his legal fee to the tune of ₹3.8 crore, waiving it off. The senior advocate made the offer after the ruling AAP government in Delhi tried to pay Kejriwal's legal fee at the cost of the taxpayer.
The fee included a ₹1 crore retainer and ₹22 lakh for each court appearance.
"I will certainly defend him even if he can't pay... If it is incumbent on me to support him and his livelihood I will support him, because he is a clean force as opposed to Arun Jaitley," Jethmalani said at the time.
Jethmalani in May 2013 was expelled from the Bharatiya Janata Party for "breach of discipline" after he criticized the party leadership.
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