Indira Jaising is an advocate of the Supreme Court of India. She is noted for her legal activism in promoting human right and feminism. She also runs an NGO with the name of Lawyers’ Collective. She is an Indian lawyer. She is the first woman to be designated a Senior Advocate by the High Court of Bombay and to became Additional Solicitor General of India. You can follow her on twitter at @IJaising
Which factors do you believe shaped your decision to pursue law?
It was the desire to be in a profession which could contribute to social change, law provides those opportunities. It is more of a calling rather than a profession alone. You may have noticed that many of the leaders of the national movement were lawyers; this shows you the potential of the profession to contribute to public affairs.
At the time you joined the Bar, it wasn’t very conducive to women, what motivated you to go for litigation?
The excitement of it all, the live interaction with people, clients, your opponents and judges, you can see the outcome of your work in real time, it is also very challenging to be able to devise a strategy out of many available. It is law in action. There is an amazing human dimension to it, you get to know peoples life stories, and you learn a lot not only about law but also about life.
It is still believed that the road for a woman in litigation is not an easy one. What’s your take on this?
It is not easy I agree, this is evident form the fact that there are so few women judges, after all judges are appointed from among lawyers, there are many women lawyers in law school, but not so many in litigation, courts are not women friendly. There are no crèches in courts, there are no enough vacancies for women in the chambers of senior lawyers. Women have faced sexual harassment in chambers and in courts. These factors drive women away from litigation.
You have in your entire career fought for the oppressed and the unprivileged section of our society. How would you describe your journey as a proponent of human rights?
Exhilarating, exciting and well worth it, I do not judge my own success by the outcome of a case, this profession teaches you to be detached from your work. We have no control over how judges decide, but our arguments do influence them sometimes to change their mind.
In 1986, you were designated the first woman Senior Advocate by the High Court of Bombay. In 2006, you became the first woman to be appointed Additional Solicitor General of India. How much value do you the put in these titles and designations? How have they helped you in your career?
I do not put much value by them, you must understand they came because of good work not the other way round, that success in the profession is based on merit alone, it is an old boys network based on a system of give and take, there is a god father syndrome in operation here, that is why I am so happy with my success, I had no god fathers and needed none to enjoy my work.
How difficult is it for a first generation lawyer to pursue a career in litigation, that too when he/she is not financially established and doing it out of a sense of civic duty and not merely for profit motives?
Difficult, opportunities don’t come easy, but hard work and having a mission get you very far. This is the reason why I filed the petition to rework the system of designation of senior lawyers to make it merit based.
What skill sets do you seek in fresh law graduates when you hire them? Does the name of the university matters? What role does grades, moot court competitions, and publication in law play in your decision making?
I look for initiative and creativity, I look for commitment to a cause and to liberal values, no University and grades don’t matter, l look at their potential, I look to see if they have a legal mind, and yes do look for good writing skills.
It is a common perception that lawyers do not have a moral compass and their ethics and morality revolve around prospects of monitory gains. How far do you agree with this statement largely?
Lawyers look upon themselves as professionals and detach from the issues in the case. I however, look at the issues at hand and decide if I want to get involved with the case.
How much progress, in your experience, has India made in terms of Gender equality and social Justice? How much judiciary has changed during your career
Gender justice is an issue which the world at large has not been able to resolve and I do not expect it to get resolved overnight or in the 67 years since independence after we got the guarantee of fundamental rights, judges are receptive of arguments of gender justice.
In judiciary corruption has not been discussed widely. However the issue has been raised many a times. What are your views on these?
The contempt of court power has a chilling effect, the solution lies is getting rid of this power.
What would be your parting message to law students who got inspired by you and wants to follow your footsteps?
Make the effort, it is worth it, you will be rewarded in more ways than one, life will be worth living and you will not regret it.
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