Each year, thousands of VIPS students enter various professions. Unknown to them, they all have a huge debt to pay to Arun Jaitley because it is due to his skills as a lawyer and his benevolence that they got their alma mater
The untimely demise of former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has been variously mourned as the passing away of a political and legal giant, a strategist par excellence, both in the court of law and in the people’s court, an erudite orator and above all, a great human being. Jaitley’s acts of benevolence touched many hearts and were duly mentioned by many people in their remembrances.
However, there was one aspect of his personality that was not written about much, and that was Jaitley, the institution builder.
Today, the Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies (VIPS), the institution I head, ranks among the top centres of higher education with state-of-the-art facilities. Each year, thousands of VIPS students enter the fields of law, media, business and the IT sector.
Unknown to them, they all have a huge debt to pay to Jaitley because it is due to his skills as a lawyer and his benevolence that they got their alma mater.
More than a decade ago, the institute was given a five-acre plot by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) for a hefty sum. However, the DDA was not forthright about the fact that there was a jhuggi cluster on the plot. The DDA intended to hand over the plot to us without bothering to clear the settlement, as it should have done.
We filed a suit and the matter came up before the Delhi High Court. Our lawyers advised us to hire a senior advocate and suggested Jaitley’s name. I was acquainted with Jaitley but did not know him too well. When I accompanied my lawyer for a meeting with Jaitley, he offered us a cup of coffee, heard us through and said, “Dr Vats, I am told that your law school is doing very well. In fact, my son refers to the tutorials that you give to your students.” I was taken aback and didn’t know how to react to this high praise.
Going back to the case at hand, Jaitley told my lawyer that it would be a long-drawn court battle needing several court appearances; nevertheless he would fight for the institute.
Amazingly, after the first hearing in the matter, he told his legal clerk not to raise any bills as he was offering his services pro bono because the future of students was at stake.
In all, there were over 20 hearings before the High Court and Jaitley, who was a senior Supreme Court advocate, would appear for each of them. In case there was a delay for some reason like the DDA counsel not turning up, he would settle down in the High Court canteen, have cups of coffee while chatting with the lawyers there and wait for his turn before the Bench.
There was only one hearing for which he did not appear as there was a pressing meeting of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in Mumbai.
On the day of the final argument, Jaitley spoke with erudition, authority, conviction and aplomb for nearly 45 minutes. He concluded by saying that the plot was meant for an educational institution of eminence and not for a five-star hotel, hence, the land allocating authority could not apply similar parameters for handover. Needless to say, we got relief from the HC. It was a monumental judgment that forced the DDA to revise its land allocation policy.
Thankfully, Jaitley’s association with us did not end with the case and he began taking a keen interest in the development of VIPS. In fact, he visited the VIPS campus twice after its completion.
His second visit to the campus was as Finance Minister and he took the time out from his busy schedule to preside over the convocation function. In his address, he spoke like a true scholar and impressed the faculty and the students alike with his knowledge of diverse issues.
His last public function too was with us, as a few days before his 66th birthday in December 2018, he agreed to release a book on photography published by VIPS. This book titled Wide Angle showcased my efforts and that of the students and faculty. Since he was recuperating from a kidney transplant surgery, it was difficult for him to travel all the way to the VIPS campus in Pitam Pura. Jaitley requested for a venue in the heart of Delhi and despite health restrictions, he arrived on time.
Once again he spoke with similar affection and enthusiasm for the institution he had helped build. He spoke about the new avenues in education and how the art of photography not only encouraged creativity but also created employment opportunities.
He encouraged young minds to move off the beaten track and look for newer and richer employment avenues. Jaitley was very clear that evening about his vision of ‘New India’, which he and his long-time friend and comrade-in-arms Prime Minister Narendra Modi had got together to implement.
I am sure that Jaitley must have helped several other institutions like VIPS to overcome obstacles created by obdurate systems. I cannot speak for others but for us at VIPS, he shall ever remain a guiding star.
(The writer is a former MLA and Chairman, Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, GGSIP University)
Writer: SC Vats
Courtesy: The Pioneer