In this article, Ninisha of RGNUL discusses ten most inspirational female lawyers in India
Out of the total 15,959 judges in the lower judiciary across India, 11,397 are males which make up of about 71.4% while there are only 4,409 women judges making up 27.6%. At the district level, female lawyers remain below 40%. Not more than 10% of female lawyers are there in the higher courts. In 2016, R Banumathi was the only woman judge in the Supreme Court. Eight of twenty four high courts in India do not have women judges. There is no adequate representation of female lawyers in the judiciary system of India. Presently, there are only 3 sitting female judges out of the total 25 judges, namely, R.Banumathi, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee.
Rebecca Mammen John pursued her education from Matar Dei Convent School and graduation from Delhi University.
Rebecca John joined the legal profession in 1990, when there were hardly any female lawyers in criminal field. She was the first senior women lawyer to become a senior advocate in criminal law and designated as Senior Advocate in 2013 by the Delhi High Court. She has a rigorous practice in Supreme Court, appellate and trial courts in criminal law. She had handled various eminent cases.
- Securities Scam of 1992: It was also known as Harshad Mehta scam, in which journalist Sucheta Dalal exposed Mehta’s illegal methods in The Times of India. He was using bank receipts of Public Sector Banks to buy stocks.
- Hawala scam of 1996: Payments were allegedly sent by politicians through four Hawala brokers (Jain brothers). It was US$18 billion Bribery scandal. The people were accused included L. K. Advani, V. C. Shukla, P. Shiv Shankar, Sharad Yadav, Balram Jakhar, and Madan Lal Khurana.
- Hashimpura Massacre of 1986: She appeared for victims in this case in which 44 Muslims were targeted, murdered and dumped nearby irrigation canal by Provincial Armed Constabulary Jawans.
- Anti-Sikh riots of 1984: She also represented the victims in this case in which Sikhs were targeted by Anti-Sikh mob in a series of pogroms because of the assassination of Indira Gandhi by Sikh bodyguards.
- Ishrat Jahan encounter case: It was a criminal case in Gujarat in which Central Bureau of Investigation accused Ahmedabad police and Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau for fake encounter killings of four individuals
- Kobad Ghandy case: He was allegedly the top leader of CPI (Maoist) who had faced trials of murder and sabotage. He was assigned the task of spreading Maoist influence in urban areas.
- Delhi Diwali Blast Case of 2005: Three explosions killed 62 people and injured around 210 people. Bombs were triggered in south and central Delhi and it was believed that Lashkar-e-Taiba was behind the attacks.
- Batla House encounter case: Indian Mujahideen terrorists Atif Ameen and Mohammad Sajid were suspected and killed in Delhi in an encounter. This incident took place after five serial blasts on 13 september 2008 in which around 30 were killed and over 100 were injured.
- Aarushi Talwar case: It involves unsolved murders of 14 year old Aarushi and 45 year old Hemraj Banjade, a domestic worker, who were killed around 14-15 May in 2008. She represented the Talwars.
In some interviews, John talked about infallibility of the Indian criminal justice system and impossibility of Death penalty to take place in such system. You can watch the interview here.
Menaka Guruswamy is a BR Ambedkar Research Scholar and lecturer at Columbia Law School. She read law as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University where she was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy in Law and a Gammon fellow for a Masters in Law at Harvard Law School.
Dr. Guruswamy had practiced law in New York, as an associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell. She had advised the United Nations Development Fund, New York and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), New York and UNICEF South Sudan on issues relating to International Human rights law and aided Nepal in Constitution making.
She practices before Supreme Court of India. In Litigation practice in India, she focuses on constitutional rights and challenged criminalization of same sex relations
- Extra – Judicial Killings in Manipur: She was the amicus curiae appointed by Supreme Court in this case. In this case, PIL alleged that 1,528 extrajudicial killings took place between 1980 and 2011 in Manipur. The allegations were against the Indian Army, Assam Rifles, central paramilitary forces and Manipur Police.
- Naz Foundation v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi: She defended Naz Foundation and challenged Section 377 of IPC. She appeared for IIT students and alumni and told the Supreme Court Bench that Section 377 violated Articles 15, 19 and 21 of the constitution. It discriminates on the basis of gender. She emphasized that homosexuality is not a psychiatric disorder, LGBT citizens are denied equal opportunities, employment and right to live with dignity. She was the sole women in the all-male team of senior advocate who are fighting against the constitutionality of Section 377.
Pinky Anand graduated from Lady Shri Ram College for Women and received B.A LLB degree from Faculty of Law, University of Delhi. In 1980, she joined Harvard University to receive a Master of Law degree, supported by Inlaks Scholarship from Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation.
Pinky Anand is an Indian lawyer designated as a senior advocate and she is also a politician. Currently, she is serving the post of Additional Solicitor General in the Supreme Court of India. She is currently the chairperson of National Committee Law, ASSOCHAM ladies league. She is an expert in constitutional law, property law, private international law, environmental law and corporate law. She handled some of the leading cases of India which are related to constitutional rights.
- Clemenceau Case: She represented the French Government in the case of Clemenceau in which decommissioned French warship Le Clemenceau was on its way to Alang, a shipbreaking yard, for dismantling in India but recalled due to alleged high quantities of toxic asbestos and PCBs.
- Crusade against Genetically modified food: She appeared on behalf of the petitioner Vandana Shiva and a charitable trust regarding hazardous impact on health of people on consumption of genetically modified food.
- Case of Tamil actress Khushboo: Pinky Anand fought for her right of freedom and Expression, in which Supreme Court upheld her rights and quashed 22 cases of defamation. Legal battle was won in which khushboo made certain comments about pre-marital sex and virginity.
- Delimitation case: She handled this case in Supreme Court which had led to the implementation of Delimitation Commissioner’s orders in the country according to 2001 census.
Pinky Anand shared her journey after graduation from Harvard: https://superlawyer.in/pinky-anand-additional-solicitor-general-studying-delhi-university-harvard-her-formative-years-career/
Indira Jaising pursued her school education in Mumbai and completed her Bachelor of Arts degree from Bangalore University. In 1962, she completed LLM from University of Bombay.
Indira Jaising is a noted personality for her legal activism in the sphere of Human rights. In 2018, she was ranked 20th in the list of 20 greatest leaders of the World by Fortune magazine. She also runs an NGO “Lawyers Collective”, but its license was cancelled for violation of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act. She argued for the rights of homeless dwellers of Mumbai, fought environmental cases, and raised voice regarding extra- judicial killings in Manipur.
- Bhopal Gas Tragedy case: She represented the victims in the Supreme Court of India to claim compensation for them against Union Carbide Corporation.
- Rohingya Muslims crisis: She was appointed by UN for Investigation in the case of rape, torture and killings of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, the reason of which were security forces.
- Case of Mary Roy: Inheritance rights were granted to Syrian Christian women in Kerela by the honourable Supreme Court of India.
- Case of Githa Hariharan: In this case, Chief Justice A.S Anand held that mother is also a “natural guardian” of her minor children and they can bear the name of their mother.
- Greenpeace India case: She also argued the case for Priya Pillai in which she was offloaded from a London-bounded flight by immigration officers in New Delhi airport so as to prevent her from going to UK to address British parliament.
- She challenged the Indian Divorce Act in the High Court of Kerela and helped Christian women to get a divorce on grounds of torture, desertion and cruelty.
- She represented Rupan Deol Bajaj who prosecuted KPS Gill for sexual harassment.
Flavia Agnes completed Shreemati Nathibai Damodar Thackersey Women’s University entrance exam and completed a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. She completed an LLB in 1988 and LLM from Mumbai University in 1992 and received M.Phil from NLSIU in 1997.
Flavia Agnes, a practicing lawyer at Mumbai High Court, is an Indian women’s rights lawyer who is expertized in marital, divorce and property law. Her general theme of various articles includes women struggles, minority issues, gender equality, female jurisprudence and domestic violence. Her own experiences related to domestic violence had inspired her to fight for the rights of women in the society.
- She is a co-founder of MAJLIS, a legal and cultural resource centre to provide socio-legal support to victims of domes and social abuse. This centre played a major role in the case of Triple Talaq.
- According to her, solution to sexual violence would be to bring all forms of abuse under the ambit of Section 498A which deals with matrimonial disputes.
- She is against the concept that rape is worse than death or that a women is has been raped is “zinda laash” as it demeans the dignity of women. According to her, as per Section 376E of IPC (which allows death penalty for rapes), the accused must be “unrepentant repeat offenders”.
- She is a part of the Global Feminisms Project, an archive created in 2002 to explore women scholars and activists in the world.
Discussion with Flavia Agnes on women empowerment:
Vrinda Grover graduated from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, where she was a student of history. She obtained degree from Delhi University and a Masters in Law from New York University.
Vrinda Grover is a lawyer, researcher, human and women rights activist based in New Delhi, India. She represented various cases regarding human rights, sexual and domestic violence, communal massacre, extrajudicial killings, custodial torture, sexual minorities, trade unions and political activists. Time magazine identified her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2013.
- Hashimpura police killings case of 1987: It was a mass murder which took place near Meerut, UP. 42 Muslims were targeted and their dead bodies were dumped near the irrigation canals by Provincial Armed Constabulary.
- Soni Sori rape torture case: The victim was imprisoned for criminal conspiracy and was sexually assaulted in custody of police in Chattisgarh. Grover appeared for Soni Sori.
- 2008 Kandhamal Riots of Orissa: Hindu Nationalist groups killed at least more than 20 Christians, burned 730 houses and set 95 churches on fire. It was an Anti-Christian riots incited by Maoists.
- Parliament Attack case of 2001: Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad were held responsible for terrorist attack on Indian Parliament. She served as the counsel for S.A.R Geelani who was one off the main accused.
- Muzzafarnagar Massacre of 2013: She appeared for the seven victims who were gang-raped. In this, there were riots between Hindu and Muslim and Akhilesh Yadav led Samajwadi Party was held guilty as they were negligent in preventing violence in their state along with Central Government.
- She also contributed to Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010, which protects people from communal and targeted violence
- Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 which deals with sexual offences.
- Her commendable contribution also goes to Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
- She also represented the victims of 1984 sikh-riots and 2004 Ishrat Jahan case.
Karuna Nundy received a degree in Economics from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University. She studied law at Cambridge University and pursued LLM from Columbia University, New York.
Karuna Nundy is a Supreme Court lawyer and also worked in US. Her main focus is on Constitutional Law, commercial Litigation, arbitration, legal policy and media law. She had been described as one of the three feminists leading a new wave, along with Vrinda Grover and Arundhati Roy by The Times of India. She wanted to make a huge contribution to India.
- Nirbhaya Rape Case: It was a major turning point in her life as she engaged herself in the field of anti -rape and sexual harassment of women in India.
- Bhopal Gas Tragedy Case: She was one of the daring lawyers who fought back for the rights of Bhopal Gas Tragedy victims and helped in cutting carcinogenic chemicals.
- Shreya Singhal v. Union of India: Nundy appeared on behalf of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (NGO) in the case, which struck down section 66A of Information Technology, 2000.
- She had also worked with the government of Bhutan and helped Nepal in drafting the parts of interim constitution.
- She was consulted during the process of making Verma Committee report that was setup to review India’s Anti Rape laws.
Karuna Nundy talked about “women at work”:
She pursued her education from Hindu College, University of Delhi and then enrolled herself at the Bar Council of India in 1990.
Meenakshi Lekhi is the national spokesperson of BJP and a Supreme Court India lawyer. She handled a variety of issues relating to women, domestic violence, family dispute and permanent commission of women officers in the armed forces.
■ “Women’s Reservation Bill” which proposed to amend the constitution of India to reserve 33% of all seats in Lok Sabha and all Legislative Assemblies.
▪ She was a part of the Drafting Committee which took up “Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill” which seeks to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work. It was passed by the parliament in 2013.
▪ She was successful in revoking the ban on media regarding display of court proceedings.
▪ Shanti Mukund Hospital Rape case: She represented the case in which victim was injured in her eyes and raped by the convict who then expressed the desire to marry her in the court of law.
▪ Association: National Commission for Women, Sakshi and National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development.
She was horrified on seeing the pathetic working conditions in UP, Bengal and Bihar during her time as a student at IIT, so she moved to work with Niyogi’s Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha in 1986. She got her law degree in 2000 from a college affiliated to the Pandit Ravishankar Shukla University in Raipur.
- She is a trade unionist and civil rights activist against land acquisition. She was associated with Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha and fought against corrupt bureaucrats because they denied payment of proper wages to workers in mines and plants in Bhilai.
- She raised her voice audaciously for Dalit and tribal rights, right for land, education, health and security of victimised people who were exploited by landlords.
- Since 2016, she has been fighting for the villagers of Ghatbarra and areas of Ambikapur as their community rights were cancelled by the government of Chattisgarh. State government snatched away the forest rights of Adivasis so as to facilitate coal mining of Adani group.
- She wrote a critique of Binayak Sen’s imprisonment who was convicted for sedition by a local court, later upheld by the High Court of Chattisgarh. But later granted bail by Supreme Court in appeal.
- She was also a part of judicial inquiry into the rape and fake encounter of Mina Khalko who was raped and shot twice by Chattisgarh personnel leading to death and aided the victims for many years.
Sudha Bharadwaj talked about extra judicial killings and land acquisitions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKAUq9ThSks
Zia Mody obtained education from Elphinstone College, Mumbai. She pursued law at Selwyn College, Cambridge and Master’s degree from Harvard Law School in 1979.
- Zia Mody is an Indian Corporate Lawyer and business women. She is the founder and managing partner of AZB & Partners. She also advises large private equity houses such as KKR, Bain Capital and Warburg Pincus.
- She has worked with eminent institutions like Tata Group, Reliance, Aditya Birla Group and Vedanta Group. She is appraised as a leading lawyer in field of Banking & Finance, Corporate, M&A, Securities law and private equity.
- She was recognized as a top 13 female Acritas Star globally by Acritas Star 2018. She was termed “Market Leader” for Mergers & Associations by IFLR1000 Financial & Corporate guide 2018.
- Law Commission of India set up a panel to review the provision of “Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996” because of several inadequacies observed in functioning of the Act 2014. Zia Mody was a part of this expert committee.
- She was also a member of the Reserve Bank of India Committee which was set up for Comprehensive Financial Services for Small Businesses and conditions of Low-income households.
The contributions which these powerful women have given to the judiciary system of our country are of immense significance whether it is environmental, property, constitutional, criminal, family or corporate law. They achieved their pursuits and dreams through the magical sword of law which has the ability and power to bring a change in the world and provide justice to all sections of the society.