Making the Unheard Voices Heard

Feb/19/2023 / by Indira Jaising
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

Indira Jaising is an eminent Indian lawyer. Besides achieving nationwide fame as a lawyer, she has earned considerable fame as a human rights activist too.

She was adjudged by Fortune magazine as one among the World’s 50 greatest leaders of 2018. Her rank was 20th in the list and she is the first Indian lawyer to appear on this esteemed list. In 2009, she achieved the distinction of being appointed as the first woman Additional Solicitor General of India. Indira Jaising is known for championing feminist causes and is a strong voice against discrimination of women and different marginalized groups.

Born in Mumbai on 3rd June 1940, the age of Indira Jaising is 82 years. She did her school education from St. Teresa’s Convent High School in Santacruz, Mumbai, and from Bishop Cotton Girls’ SchoolBangalore. She did her graduation from Bangalore University, which she followed with  a LLM from the University of Bombay.

For the Women and the Victims

Her legal career began with the law firm Mulla and Mulla. As a lawyer Indira Jaising has the track record of taking up challenging cases and contesting for the marginalized. In the Emergency period (an oppressive period of post-independent India, which lasted from 25th June 1975 to 21st March 1977) she took up several cases of workers who were charged as anti-national.

 While exploring about Indira Jaising we can come to know that she also represented the victims of horrific Bhopal Gas Tragedy of 1984 in the Supreme Court of India where she argued for the victims’ claim for compensation from the US multinational Union Carbide Corporation and managed to get them compensation too. Despite being a high-profile senior lawyer, Indira Jaising didn’t hesitate to fight for the poor homeless pavement dwellers of Mumbai who were facing eviction.

Over the years, Indira Jaising has also used her sharp legal acumen to fight in cases related to child labor and domestic violence. Indira Jaising  argued cases pertaining to our environment in the Supreme Court, which amply showcases her deep environmental concerns.

Major Legal Battles

In her long and distinguished career, Indira Jaising also has had several cases where she forcefully and logically argued against discrimination of women. The famous Mary Roy’s case deserves a special mention in this context, where Indira’s legal battle led to the grant of equal inheritance rights for Syrian Christian women in Kerala.

Her legal battle for Rupan Deol Bajaj, in the much-publicized Rupan Deol Bajaj v/s KPS Gill case (Gill was Director General of Police in Punjab at the time of filing the case), which led to the prosecution of the former IPS officer KPS Gill for outraging the modesty of Rupan Deol Bajaj (she was serving as an IAS officer when Gill molested her) was one of the first cases of successful prosecution of sexual harassment in India.

Her successful challenging of the discriminatory provisions of the Indian Divorce Act in the High Court of Kerala, which empowered Christian women to get divorce on the grounds of cruelty or desertion (a right which was denied to them earlier) also deserves to be much lauded. These cases should be highlighted in any comprehensive biography of Indira Jaising.

Some years ago, she showed the resolve to fight against the apex court of India. In the Supreme Court v. Indira Jaising case (2016), the senior counsel challenged the procedure for designating senior advocates in the Supreme Court, and represented herself in the case.

Recognition and Controversy

In 1986, the Padma Shri award winner achieved the distinction of being the first woman to be designated a Senior Advocate by the High Court of Bombay.  Here it deserves a mention that in 2008, Indira Jaising became the first woman from India to be elected to the UN’s Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

In 1981, Indira Jaising and her husband Anand Grover (a senior lawyer) founded Lawyers’ Collective, an NGO which has its focus on feminist and left-wing issues. The organization has  a history of providing legal funding for the underprivileged sections of the Indian society. However, since 2019 the NGO has run into legal tangle.

The license of the NGO was permanently cancelled by the Home Ministry of India for alleged violations of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act. The Union Government of India accused Lawyers’ Collective of using foreign funds in a manner not mentioned in the NGO’s objectives. Subsequently, the Bombay High Court directed to de-freeze the domestic accounts of the NGO, but the case still lingers on in the SC of India.

FAQs

When did Indira Jaising start her career?

She began her legal career in the early 1960s.

Who is Indira Jaising’s husband?

Her husband Anand Grover is a senior lawyer who has earned considerable fame for his legal activism related to homosexuality and HIV.

What is the educational qualification of Indira Jaising?

She did LLM from the University of Bombay.

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