February 08, 2020
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Ram Jethmalani

The lawyer-turned-minister on how he plans to transform Delhi into a heaven

Ram Jethmalani
You made a big splash talking about demolishing Lutyens' Delhi and then retracted.
I have a troubled conscience on the quality of life in this part of Delhi. More useful and aesthetic structures can be built to provide more housing.

Is this in line with the BJP- RSS- VHP agenda to remove the symbols of colonialism?
Nonsense. India had decent houses during the Mohenjodaro civilisation. Who said that congested houses are a part of Indian heritage?

Won't privatising construction turn Delhi into more of a concrete jungle?
Not at all. I am anxious to preserve the beauty and lungs of Delhi, but I'm also committed to creating two million houses a year.

Do you think Delhi has the infrastructure to take on this extra load?
I won't put the cart before the horse...I'll create the infrastructure and then the houses.

The real estate market's in a glut. Will private builders pump in money?
Sure. Unaffordable land prices and illegal monopoly created by DDA has led to this situation. Even foreign investors want to get into constructing low-cost housing in India.

As a lawyer, how would you view chargesheeted ministers—in the Ayodhya case—holding key portfolios?
Offences involving misuse of public office or gross moral turpitude justify asking for resignations on charges framed by courts. Demolition and hawala are different issues.

After a controversial innings as a criminal lawyer—defending cheats and murderers—how do you feel being on the other side of the fence?
That's part of the legal profession. This is a public service I'm doing as best as I can.

Any regrets at not being given the Law portfolio?
None, whatsoever.

Are you required to provide legal inputs to the government?
The law minister is my friend, we consult each other. My services are always available to the PM. I don't express my individual opinion. Everything is a cabinet decision.

Why the recent furore about your comments on the reservation policy?
I clarified to Parliament that what I meant was that to continue with reservation, we would have to amend the Constitution. The media at times misreports.

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