The Padma Shri Awardee, a human rights lawyer, former solicitor general, author and Bombay HC’s first woman senior advocate, Indira Jaising holds many titles! She is a prominent figure in the Indian legal circuit and has been the legal counsellor and voice for women, LGBTQ, Dalits and marginalised groups for the past 50 years. Her unrelenting fight for legal justice, captivating character and nuanced understanding of the legal system are astounding. In this blog, let us unravel the incredible story of Indira Jaising, the most influential lawyer in our country.
“I had no role models to emulate and I could fashion my own way.”
This Blog Includes:
Personal Life and Education
Born amidst the turmoil of the pre-Partition era, Indira Jaising grew up in Bombay (Mumbai) after her family migrated from Sindh in Pakistan. Jaising’s formative years were spent in Mumbai and for her bachelors in arts, she went to Bangalore University. Defying traditions and refusing to follow stereotypical gender roles is intrinsic to the formidable personality, even though she grew up in a time when the general norm was to marry after graduation, Jaising envisioned a different future. Despite her parent’s reservations, she went on to pursue law from the prestigious University of Bombay. Her natural proclivity towards law and its innate understanding led her to her first job at the famous law firm: Mulla and Mulla. Soon after Jaising left for fellowship at the Institute of International Legal Studies in London.
Jaising is a true pioneer with many remarkable achievements under her belt. She was the first woman to hold the position of Additional Solicitor General of India, the first Indian woman to be appointed to the UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women, founder of the NGO Lawyers’ Collective and recipient of Padma Shri by the Indian government for her exceptional social service. Whether it’s arguing in front of a male-dominated court or questioning the actions of the present government; Indira Jaising is never frazzled or out of her element. The law and the ability to motivate change through its various interpretations is what drives Jaising even after 50 long- famous years in the profession.
Notable Cases: Jaising’s Fight for Justice
“I developed my political commitment in my resistance to the Emergency and that commitment to democracy has stayed with me.“
Indira Jaising has been at the forefront of fighting for the rights of the marginalised since the very start of her career. Her ambition and staunch commitment towards justice drove her to set up the Workers Law Centre. The centre had several like-minded lawyers and activists who were dedicated to the plight of union workers during the Indian Emergency. Indira Jaising has never shied away from a challenge, during the emergency, she took up several unpopular cases of workers who deemed anti-national.
Jaising has been embodied in some of India’s most controversial legal battles: she represented the victims and survivors of Bhopal Gas Tragedy, fought for equal rights for women in inheritance law in the famous Mary Roy case, fighting for justice for the British Muslim women’s tragic demise in the Gujarat riots 2002, representing the victims of sexual harassment and her questioning of the entrenched system of nepotism in the judiciary. Jaising has taken prominent cases which uphold equal rights of the victims and protect them from the tyranny of the flawed judicial system.
Revealing the Dark Side of the Male-Oriented Judiciary System
“But, even after ‘I have made it’, my word is often treated as less valuable than the word of a male lawyer.”
Even the most influential, powerful female figures are not immune to gender injustice and discrimination. On several occasions, Jaising has attacked the gendered language, chauvinist mentality of judges and senior advocates and entrenched gendered mannerisms that alienate women lawyers. The rampant sexual harassment and fear of it often drive women away from this noble profession. Jaising has talked about how sexual harassment continues to affect her despite her seniority and popularity in the legal circuit.
Indira Jaising is also a world-renowned author of several books and articles and is one of the top featured writers for some of the bestselling magazines and newspapers. Her books encapsulate the historical journey of some of the toughest and impactful cases that the lawyer has fought in her life-long career.
- Sexual Harassment at Workplace by Indira Jaising
- Handbook on Law of Domestic Violence by Indira Jaising
- Bhopal: The Inside Story: Union Carbide Corporation UCC Workers Speak Out by Indira Jaising and T. R. Chouhan
- Bhopal, the Inside Story: Carbide Workers Speak Out on the World’s Worst Industrial Disaster by Indira Jaising and T. R. Chouhan
- From the Abnormal to the Normal: Preventing Sex-Selective Abortions Through the Law by Asmita Basu, C. Sathyamala, and Indira Jaising
- Law of Domestic Violence: A User’s Manual for Women by Indira Jaising
Awards and Achievements
Indira Jaising’s activism, fight for gender equality and justice across all spectrums has been recognised and awarded throughout her career.
- In 2019, she won the Senior Advocate of the Year award at IDEX Legal Awards
- In 2018, Jaising was named amongst the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders by the Fortune Magazine
- In 2004, Indira Jaising was awarded the Padma Shree for her public work.
- The first Indian woman member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
- The first woman to be appointed the Additional Solicitor General of India by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi
- The first woman to became a senior advocate in Bombay High Court
- In 1981, Co-Founded Lawyers’ Collective with her husband and senior advocate, Anand Grover, an NGO dedicated to protecting the rights of the marginalised communities in India.
Indira Jaising along with her husband Anand Grover has opened up avenues of resistance and opposition in the flawed judicial system. Jaising has taught Indians to question the government, judiciary and laws; not cower in front of them. The fierce lawyer does not back away from any challenge, from a young Sindhi girl who defied her parents and went on to pursue law to an accomplished senior advocate; Indira Jaising’s story is not just admirable but also impossible to ignore. For more such amazing success stories, follow Leverage Edu and check out our latest International Women’s Day series on ‘Her Vision’ – 62 Ultimate Stories of Inspiration!