Until recently, the Supreme Court had a system of voting in place for the appointment of senior advocates from amongst the eminent lawyers and jurists of the country. Indira Jaising, who is one of the top lawyers of the country, a senior advocate in the court filed a petition in the Supreme Court in 2017 alleging that the current system is arbitrary and unconstitutional. In response to this petition, SC ruled for a change in the appointment procedure, and now the new guidelines read the following:
- Number of years of practice of the applicant from the date of enrolment.
- Judgement (reported and unreported), which indicate the legal formulations advanced by the advocate in the course of proceedings of the case; pro-bono work done by the advocate; and domain expertise of the advocate in various branches of law.
- Publications by the advocate
- Test of personality and suitability on the basis of interview/ interaction
In accordance with these guidelines, SC came out with a list of newly appointed senior advocates on 29th March. Only 6 of these 37 lawyers are women. Interestingly, only 8 women have been appointed to the position of senior advocates before this.
Following are the six female lawyers who have achieved this position most recently.
1. Menaka Guruswamy
Menaka Guruswamy started her career at the office of the Attorney General of India with her law degree from National Law School of India University. She also holds an LLM from Harvard Law School as a Gammon fellow, a BCL from the University of Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. Before coming to India to begin her present practice in law, she had worked at a law firm in New York, as a human rights advisor in the United Nations and had taught at the New York University School of Law.
She represented the IIT students of the LGBTQIA+ community in the Navtej Johar case in the SC which led to the partial scrapping of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code
2. Madhavi Goradia Divan
She graduated with a law degree from Pembroke College, University of Cambridge, UK. Starting her practice from the Bombay High Court, she has represented the governments of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.
In December 2018, she was appointed the Additional Solicitor General in the Supreme Court, by virtue of which she would represent the Government of India in the apex court till July 2020. She has been a key representative of the government in the Triple Talaq case in the SC and has argued in favour of criminalising the practice.
She also regularly contributes her thoughts to news forums like the Indian Express and has written a book titled Facets of Media Law.
3. Aishwarya Bhati
Aishwarya Bhati is the first woman from Rajasthan to have secured the position of a senior advocate. She has served as the Secretary to the Supreme Court Bar Association and was appointed as the Additional Advocate General for Uttar Pradesh in the SC in 2017. She is an advocate on record at present.
She recently represented the Armed Forces for a petition that challenged a large number of cases that are filed against soldiers working in areas where the Armed Forces Special Powers Act is in force. She argued that these men are prosecuted for performing their duties and should be guaranteed some extent of immunity from wrongful prosecution.
4. Anitha Shenoy
Anitha Shenoy is a law graduate from National Law School of India University, Bangalore and is presently an advocate on record in the Supreme Court as one of the two standing counsel for the state of Karnataka.
She has talked of her experiences with sexism in the legal atmosphere when clients don’t pay her on time while her husband (also a lawyer) is always timely paid and how she has been a confidante to a friend relating her harassment story to her by a senior advocate. She also relates her struggle to balance her role as a lawyer and a mother of a toddler.
5. Aparajita Singh
Aparajita Singh started her practise after having worked as a junior to Senior Advocates like Harish Salve and U U Lalit. She has performed as an amicus curiae to the Supreme Court (meaning a third party expert advisor on a case) to deal with the problem of air pollution, as a result of which there was a ban on the sale of Base III vehicles post-April 2017. She has also been a member of the committee that came up with a working plan on rehabilitation of destitute widows.
6. Priya Hingorani
Priya Hingorani studied law
She has worked on cases involving diverse areas of law such as taxation, customs and excise, insurance, family and matrimonial law, commercial law, labour and service law, human rights, and constitutional law.
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