Jaya Jaitly is an Indian politician who is the former president of the now-defunct political party of India named Samta Party. In 2002, Jaya resigned from the post of party president when her name was raised in the Operation West End controversy for accepting the bribe amounting to Rs. 2 Lakh. Jaya Jaitly was awarded four years of imprisonment by the trial court for her involvement in the Operation West End bribery case in 2020. However, she appealed against the verdict in the Delhi High Court that led to the suspension of her imprisonment. Jaya Jaitly came into the limelight in December 2021 when she appealed to the Supreme Court of India to raise the legal age of marriage of Indian women from 18 to 21.
Jaya Jaitly was born on Sunday, 14 June 1942 (age 79 years; as of 2022) in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh. Her zodiac sign is Gemini. Jaya Jaitly attended the Convent of Jesus and Mary School, Delhi to receive her school education. Later, she attended Miranda House College in Delhi to complete her graduation. Jaya Jaitly then moved to Smith College in the US to pursue literature on a scholarship.
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
Parents & Siblings
Her father’s name is K. K. Chettur, and he was an IAS officer.
Her mother’s name is not known.
Husband & Children
Jaya Jaitly got married to Ashok Jaitly in 1965. Ashok Jaitly is a former IAS officer.
The couple has two children named Akshay and Aditi. Akshay is a lawyer, and Aditi is the wife of renowned former Indian cricketer Ajay Jadeja.
Jaya Jaitly’s father, K. K. Chettur, was an IAS officer from Kerala, India. He was posted in Shimla when Jaya was born after eleven years of his marriage with his wife. Soon, K. K. Chettur was posted as an Indian ambassador in Japan and Burma. Hence, Jaya Jaitly’s childhood was spent in Burma and Japan. When Jaya Jaitly was thirteen years old, K. K. Chettur died of a heart attack while playing golf in Brussels. Soon after the death of her father, Jaya Jaitly’s mother began working as a social secretary to the US ambassador. Her mother belonged to an eminent family in Kerala. Once, in a conversation with a media house, Jaya Jaitly talked about the hospitable nature of her mother who voluntarily served the wounded soldiers in Japan, as the wife of an Indian ambassador, during the war with Korea. She stated,
She was not one to sit and weep as a widow. After my father’s death, she took up a job as a social secretary to the US ambassador. She always wanted to be a doctor but didn’t have the education. She carried with her the desire to serve people. In Japan, as the Indian ambassador’s wife, she nursed wounded soldiers at various hospitals while the country was at war with Korea. In Delhi, she taught English to the children of domestic help right till the age of 87.”
Jaya Jaitly and her mother returned to India a few years after the death of K. K. Chettur. They started living in a government accommodation at Kota House on Shah Jahan Road in Delhi. The insurance amount and the pension money of K. K. Chettur was the only source of income for Jaya Jaitly and her mother. After settling down in Delhi, Jaya Jaitly was sent to the Convent of Jesus and Marry school. Soon after finishing her school studies, she went to the Miranda House College in Delhi where she was crowned as Miss Miranda in her graduation. During her first year at Miranda House College, Jaya Jaitly met with Ashok Jaitly during a stage play titled ‘The Children’s hour’ that was held between the Miranda House and St. Stephens colleges in Delhi. According to Jaya Jaitly, this stage play was never staged as it was based on the story of a lesbian; however, Jaya and Ashok became good friends during the preparations of the show. In an interview with a media house, Jaya Jaitly talked about her love journey with Ashok Jaitly. She said,
It was never staged because parents objected to its lesbian theme, but we became friends nonetheless. We went on long walks together. Then, he asked me out for a cup of coffee. The great step forward came when we watched a movie together. The height of our romance was going to La Boheme, having coffee and sharing the bill, and then seeing a movie at Regal, Rivoli or Plaza.”
In the US and England
Soon after finishing her graduation, Jaya went to the US on a scholarship to study literature at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts whereas Ashok also moved to Cambridge University to pursue his higher education. Jaya actively participated in collecting funds for the Indian army during her stay in the US when she heard the Chinese attack on India. Jaya Jaitly arranged permission from the Indian embassy in the US to organise the screening of the movie named Devi by Satyajit Ray by arranging funds through printing the poster and tickets of the movie. At the end of the public screening of the movie, she successfully collected $1700 for Indian Jawans. Jaya Jaitly worked in England for a year soon after finishing her studies in the US.
Marriage with Ashok Jaitly
After working for a year in England, Jaya Jaitly returned to India and tied the knot with Ashok Jaitly in 1965 when he was posted in the Jammu and Kashmir as an IAS officer. In Jammu and Kashmir, Jaya Jaitly got attracted to the art and crafts of the valley and the socialist movements. Once, Jaya Jaitly narrated in a conversation with a media house that she and her family witnessed a war that broke out between India and Pakistan and the strikes from Pakistan were clearly witnessed from their home in Poonch when their son, Akshay Jaitly, was only three months old.
Jaya Jaitly encouraged her children to live unsheltered life since their childhood. According to Jaya, her son and daughter used to board the public buses and auto-rickshaws for their school and college. Jaya Jaitly stated in a conversation with a media house that as her children grow young, they successfully settled in life that made her proud and happy. She further added that her son got married to a French girl Isabelle, and her daughter got hitched to Indian cricketer Ajay Jadeja in 2000.
Meeting with George Fernandes
After the emergency, Ashok Jaitly was transferred to Delhi where he started working with George Fernandes. In a conversation with a media house, Jaya Jaitly stated that she met George Fernandes through her husband, and later, Jaya and Ashok came to know about the socialists Madhu Dandavate, Madhu Limaye, and Rabi Ray through George Fernandes. She further added that she joined the Socialist Trade Union under the command of George Fernandes. She described,
I was drawn to the socialist movement: After the Emergency, Ashok was transferred to Delhi. He started working with George Fernandes, through whom we got to know about the socialist movement and Madhu Dandavate, Madhu Limaye and Rabi Ray. At George Fernandes’ behest, I joined the Socialist Trade Union. Handicrafts drew me to Gurjari.”
Soon after joining the Socialist Trade Union, Jaya Jaitly started actively participating in the international issues of India with the neighbouring countries Tibet, Burma, and Iraq. She was also a part of the three-month relief camp that was organised under the leadership of George Fernandes and Madhu Limaye after the 1984 Sikh riots.
Jaya Jaitly joined the political party ‘Janata Party’ in 1984 which was renamed, Janata Dal. Later, Jaya Jaitly and her co-workers transformed this party into Samata Party. In a conversation with a media house, Jaya Jaitly narrated that venturing into politics affected her married life so much much that it resulted in her divorce. She further added that her priorities were committed to the socialist movements, and she discontinued her marriage. She said,
Ashok and I were not meant to be together: There can be no falsehood in marriage. I felt I was throwing my life away. I realised that my priorities lay elsewhere. I was committed to the socialist movements” the best thing for me was not to continue with the marriage. Ashok and I decided to go our separate ways. But neither of us is bitter about the divorce even though he has married again.”
George Fernandes was Jaya Jaitly’s senior colleague who gradually became her political mentor, and she learnt political strategies from him. According to Jaya Jaitly, these were merely rumours that George Fernandes was the reason behind her unsuccessful marriage. Jaya Jaitly added in a conversation with a media house that they shared mutual understanding and respect for each other, and there was no other way to define their relationship. She said,
For me, he is a senior colleague from whom I have learnt a lot about politics. There is no other way to define the relationship. Those who accuse me of walking out my marriage with Ashok because of George Fernandes are only spreading rumours. There are plenty of men who step out of a marriage and enter politics, but nobody talks about them.”
According to Jaya Jaitly, a few refugee students from Burma requested security from George Fernandes after the house arrest of the former president of Burma Aung San Suu Kyi in 1991. These students were threatened by the local Indian police. George Fernandes assured them without a second thought with the security and said that the police had to arrest him before touching them. Fernandes said in a press statement,
They will have to pick me up first before they will be allowed to do anything to you.”
Jaya Jaitly was approached by George Fernandes to look into the protection arrangements of the foreign students who were associated with the All Burma Students’ League. Thereafter, George Fernandes went out of Delhi, and Jaya Jaitly kept in touch with him through letters to solely handle this matter. This eventually led Jaya Jaitly to become his personal advisor. In an interview with a media house, Jaya Jaitly talked about helping George Fernandes‘s wife and family as his personal confidante. She narrated,
I became a sort of personal confidante and well-meaning adviser. I took care of his wife and son when needed, and my home too was open to them for any assistance. This went on till 1990. The letters eventually filled a whole suitcase.”
Operation West End by Tehelka
In 2001, Jaya Jaitly’s name was highlighted in the Defence Contract bribery case for taking up the bribe of 2 Lakh rupees after the sting named Operation West End was conducted by Tehelka, a leading Indian magazine known for secret sting operations. Her involvement in this bribery case led to an embarrassing situation for the NDA government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee which resulted in the resignation of the then defence minister George Fernandes. In 2002, Jaya Jaitly was also forced to quit the Samata party president post soon after her name featured in the bribery case.
Later, according to Jaya Jaitly, she was not allowed to meet George Fernandes by his family members when he was suffering from Alzheimer’s. In 2012, she stated in a press gathering outside the Supreme Court that she was granted permission by the apex court to meet George Fernandes. In 2020, after eighteen years of court trials, Jaya Jaitly was sentenced to four years imprisonment by the trial court for her involvement in the Defence Contract bribery case under Section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC and Section 9 (taking gratification for exercise of personal influence with public servant) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
Jaya Jaitly has published a variety of books on national issues including politics, society, women, and foreign affairs. The books titled Crafts of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, the Craft Traditions of India, Viswakarma’s Children, a socio-economic study of craftspeople, and Crafting Nature were written by Jaya Jaitly.
One of Jaya Jaitly’s books titled The Podium on the Pavement is a compiled form of the articles written by her, which were based on social problems, human rights movements, rights of Indian women and the political approaches in India.
She has also contributed to drafting the syllabus of NCERT for the craft heritage schools in India to incorporate it in the NCERT books. Jaya Jaitly often writes and edits monthly articles on democracy and socialism thoughts to publish in a renowned journal named The Other Side.
Arts and Crafts
Jaya Jaitly actively promotes the art and craft cottage industries. She is the founder of Dastkari Haat Samiti which is an art and craft market established by her in 1986 with the aim to provide a bigger platform to the Indian artisans from rural and traditional areas to display their innovations in this field. In this marketplace, the artisans from different countries such as India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Africa, and Asia often participate to explore the expertise that helps them to grow further in their respective fields. In a conversation with a media house, Jaya Jaitly stated that she wanted to open this market for securing the precious culture and heritage of India so that the art and craft of India would survive. She said,
I wanted — for the sake of our heritage and culture — for our crafts to survive, but not at the cost of their lives and livelihood. I felt developing the aesthetics and skills of craftspeople, improving their marketing skills to increase their earnings would help them gain greater respectability in society.”
Contribution to Raise the Marriage Age of Women from 18 to 21
Jaya Jaitly was in news in December 2021 when she filed a petition in the Supreme Court of India to raise the marriage age of women in India from 18 to 21. This petition was also submitted to NITI Aayog and the Prime Minister’s Office. In an interview with a media house, Jaya Jaitly stated that she raised concern to increase the marriage age of women in India to ensure equality in marriage age and voting rights. She described,
My understanding is that gender parity, equality and empowerment cannot start if there are some age differences. If the voting age is the same then marriageable age should also be the same. Some of the voices said that it looks as if women are just supposed to stay at home and produce children and need not be given an opportunity to study and add to the national wealth of the country. It is not fair for girls to get tied up. The only way we can stop girls from becoming a financial burden is to help them earn.”
- Jaya Jaitly was born one month premature as her mother slipped after wearing high heels during her pregnancy.
- The Indian governmental organisations which are connected with the solving of the heritage issues at the centre and state levels often consults Jaya Jaitly on official issues. She is honoured with eminent accolades and awards by the PhD Chamber and FICCI for conserving the art and crafts of India.
- Jaya Jaitly is a compassionate animal lover. She is often spotted with her pet dog during interviews with renowned media houses.