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In a first, Supreme Court library to get woman lawyer’s portrait

Kapila Hingorani was the first Indian woman to graduate from Cardiff Law School in Britain and was the first lawyer to file a public interest litigation in the top court in 1979.

india Updated: Nov 30, 2017 07:30 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Kapila Hingorani,Supreme Court,Mother of PILs
Kapila Hingorani is known in legal circles as the Mother of PILs. (HT Photo)

The Supreme Court will put a portrait of a woman lawyer in one of its libraries for the first time in the 67-year history of India’s top court.

A colour photograph of illustrious barrister Kapila Hingorani, known in legal circles as the Mother of PILs, will be seen alongside images of judicial luminaries MC Setalvad, CK Daphtry and RK Jain in the court’s second library.

“This was long overdue,” Chief Justice Dipak Misra said after releasing her portrait on Tuesday. The honour for Hingorani should have come much earlier as she was a true harbinger of justice for the voiceless, he added.

Hingorani, the first Indian woman to graduate from Cardiff Law School in Britain, was the first lawyer to file a public interest litigation (PIL) in the top court in 1979.

Her plea was for prisoners awaiting trial for years — sometimes spending more time in prison than the maximum sentence they would have got if convicted for the crimes they were accused of.

Who is Hingorani?
  • Kapila Hingorani is called the mother of PILs. Her first PIL led the top court to lay down guidelines for speedy trials.
  • The second important PIL which Hingorani filed in the SC related to denial of salary to thousands of employees of Bihar government, ranging from 4 months to 94 months.
  • A barrister, Hingorani was the first Indian woman to have studied law at Cardiff.
  • Though her family settled in Nairobi and London, she chose to stay in India as she was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi.

Her PIL led the top court to issue extensive guidelines for speedy trials and about 40,000 undertrial prisoners were released.

Born in 1927 in Nairobi, Hingorani was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi. The Supreme Court had just three woman lawyers when she began practising there. She was 86 when she died in 2013 after a remarkable career spanning nearly 60 years.

Hingorani and her three children — lawyers Aman, Priya and Shweta — fought more than 100 cases in the top court.

The Supreme Court Bar Association president Rupinder Suri said the portrait is a rightful recognition of Hingorani’s achievements as a member of the bar. “She was not just a lawyer but a barrister too. She could have lived in the UK, but chose India,” he said.

A plaque at her Cardiff alma mater also honours the pioneer among India’s woman lawyers.

First Published: Nov 30, 2017 07:29 IST