Published on: October 4, 2023 at 22:14 IST
In the pursuit of recognizing outstanding achievements and celebrating the remarkable contributions of women in the legal profession, Law Insider India proudly presents its list of the “Top 10 Women Lawyers.” These exceptional legal professionals have demonstrated unparalleled expertise, dedication, and innovation in the field of law, shaping the legal landscape with their exemplary work.
The selection criteria for this ranking were rigorous and comprehensive, focusing on several key factors such as:
1. Legal Expertise: Evaluating the depth and breadth of their legal knowledge across various practice areas while considering their expertise in specific fields of law, such as corporate law, criminal law, human rights, intellectual property, etc.
2. Professional Experience: The number of years they have been practicing law and the variety of cases they have handled. Experience often reflects a lawyer’s ability to navigate complex legal issues effectively.
3. Case Success: Assessed the track record of successful cases, including notable wins, settlements, or verdicts. Successful outcomes while demonstrating their competence and effectiveness as lawyers.
4. Leadership: Evaluated the leadership roles within law firms, legal organizations, or community initiatives. Leadership qualities often indicate a lawyer’s ability to influence and drive positive change in the legal field.
5. Client Satisfaction: Considering the client testimonials, feedback, or reviews about their legal services as Satisfied clients are a testament to a lawyer’s professionalism, communication skills, and client-focused approach.
6. Community Involvement: The involvement of lawyers in pro bono work, community service, or advocacy for social justice issues.
8. Legal Awards and Recognition: Taking into account any awards, honors, or recognitions they have received from legal associations, peers, or other reputable organizations.
9. Publications and Research: Considering lawyers who have authored influential legal publications, conducted significant legal research, or made notable contributions to legal academia.
By carefully evaluating women lawyers based on these criterias, the comprehensive guide of Top 10 women lawyers has been enumerated which is as following:
A Prominent human rights lawyer and the first woman Additional Solicitor General of India.
Indira Jaising stands as a prominent figure in the realm of legal activism, particularly in the field of human rights. Her significant contributions have garnered international recognition, with Fortune magazine ranking her 20th among the world’s greatest leaders in 2018.
Indira Jaising’s impactful work extends through various avenues, notably her involvement with the NGO “Lawyers Collective,”.
Among her landmark cases, Indira Jaising played a pivotal role in representing the victims of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy in the Supreme Court of India, advocating for their rightful compensation from the Union Carbide Corporation.
The dedication to justice was further demonstrated when she was appointed by the United Nations to investigate the harrowing incidents of rape, torture, and killings of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, atrocities committed by security forces.
Jaising’s legal advocacy has touched upon a myriad of critical issues. She championed the rights of Mumbai’s homeless dwellers, took on environmental cases, and raised her voice against the grave concern of extra-judicial killings in Manipur.
Additionally, her involvement in the Githa Hariharan case led to a significant ruling by Chief Justice A.S Anand, establishing that a mother is a “natural guardian” of her minor children, allowing them to bear her name.
A renowned criminal lawyer known for her expertise in criminal law cases.
Geeta Luthra’s expertise goes beyond the courtroom; she is an active member of numerous esteemed legal associations. She served as the Vice President of the Indian Council of Arbitration FICCI, which is a core committee member of ICC India Chapter and LawAsia, and is affiliated with the International Academy of Family Lawyers and Women’s White Collar Defense Association (WWCDA). Her extensive experience also includes serving as a sole arbitrator in numerous domestic and international arbitration cases.
In her capacity as a Senior Advocate, Luthra has represented a wide array of clients, including Public Sector Units, Private Companies, and the Delhi Government in significant cases. Her legal acumen covers an impressive range of fields, including Criminal Law, Constitutional Law, Arbitration Law, Human Rights, and Economic Offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), among others. She has been instrumental in landmark cases, particularly those concerning environmental matters, where she has championed causes such as cleaning the Yamuna River and fighting water pollution.
Geeta Luthra’s influence extends globally; she has been a speaker at international conferences, addressing critical topics such as the Criminal Justice System, amendments in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996, Institutional Arbitration, Gender Rights in Employment and Migration, and changes in Rape Laws. Her expertise has been recognized internationally, as she has delivered lectures at prestigious institutions like George Washington University, USA, University College, London, UK, and SOAS University London, UK (The School of Oriental and African Studies).
Pinky Anand, an accomplished Indian lawyer and a prominent political figure, holds the esteemed designation of a senior advocate. She has been a key player in some of India’s most significant legal cases concerning constitutional rights.
Among her notable cases, Pinky Anand represented the French Government in the Clemenceau Case. This case involved the decommissioned French warship Le Clemenceau, which was destined for dismantling in India but was recalled due to alleged high levels of toxic asbestos and PCBs, raising crucial environmental concerns.
In the case of Tamil actress Khushboo, Pinky Anand fought fervently for her client’s freedom of expression. The Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling, upheld Khushboo’s rights and dismissed 22 cases of defamation. This legal victory stemmed from Khushboo’s comments about pre-marital sex and virginity, a case that became a significant milestone in the realm of free speech in India.
Additionally, Pinky Anand played a pivotal role in the Delimitation case heard in the Supreme Court. Her efforts led to the implementation of the Delimitation Commissioner’s orders nationwide, aligning the country’s electoral boundaries with the 2001 census data.
A prominent Supreme Court lawyer known for her work in the legal battle for LGBTQ+ rights in India, particularly in the case that led to the decriminalization of homosexuality.
In her legal career, Menaka Guruswamy gained valuable experience as an associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell in New York. Her expertise extended to international human rights law, where she provided counsel to prominent organizations such as the United Nations Development Fund and UNICEF, both in New York and South Sudan. She also contributed her expertise to Nepal’s constitution-making process.
Dr. Guruswamy practices law before the Supreme Court of India, focusing her litigation efforts on constitutional rights. Notably, she played a crucial role as the amicus curiae appointed by the Supreme Court in the case of Extra-Judicial Killings in Manipur. This landmark case involved allegations of 1,528 extrajudicial killings in Manipur between 1980 and 2011, implicating various Indian military and police forces.
Furthermore, she made significant strides in challenging the constitutionality of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code in the case of Naz Foundation v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi.
Representing the Naz Foundation and advocating for the rights of the LGBT community, she highlighted the discriminatory nature of Section 377, emphasizing that it violated constitutional articles, specifically Articles 15, 19, and 21. Dr. Guruswamy’s remarkable efforts were noteworthy, especially as the sole woman in an all-male team of senior advocates, standing against the discriminatory aspects of Section 377.
Zia Mody stands as a prominent Indian Corporate Lawyer and businesswoman. She is the founder and managing partner of AZB & Partners, a renowned law firm. Mody’s expertise extends to advising major private equity houses, including KKR, Bain Capital, and Warburg Pincus. Throughout her career, she has collaborated with esteemed institutions such as Tata Group, Reliance, Aditya Birla Group, and Vedanta Group, showcasing her proficiency in areas like Banking & Finance, Corporate Law, Mergers & Acquisitions, Securities Law, and private equity.
Zia Mody’s exceptional contributions have earned her recognition on a global scale. In 2018, she was honored as one of the top 13 female Acritas Stars worldwide by Acritas Star. Additionally, she was hailed as a “Market Leader” for Mergers & Acquisitions in the IFLR1000 Financial & Corporate Guide of 2018.
Zia Mody’s influence also extends to policy and regulatory spheres. She played a crucial role in the Law Commission of India’s expert committee, which was established to review the provisions of the “Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996,” addressing observed inadequacies in its functioning. Furthermore, she served as a member of the Reserve Bank of India Committee, focusing on Comprehensive Financial Services for Small Businesses and the conditions of Low-income households. Through her multifaceted expertise, Mody continues to leave a lasting impact on the legal and financial landscapes in India.
A human rights lawyer known for her work in constitutional law, media law, and international law.
In her professional journey, Karuna Nundy stands as a distinguished Supreme Court lawyer, having also practiced in the United States. Her expertise encompasses Constitutional Law, commercial litigation, arbitration, legal policy, and media law. Recognized as a trailblazer, she has been hailed by The Times of India as one of the leading feminists shaping a new wave, alongside Vrinda Grover and Arundhati Roy. Her passion for contributing significantly to India has been a driving force in her legal career.
Nundy has been pivotal in several landmark cases that have shaped the legal landscape of India. Notably, in the Nirbhaya Rape Case, she played a crucial role in advocating against rape and sexual harassment, marking a turning point in her career.
She fearlessly fought for the rights of Bhopal Gas Tragedy victims, contributing significantly to reducing carcinogenic chemicals in the aftermath of the tragedy. Additionally, she represented the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (NGO) in the case of Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, which led to the striking down of section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, a significant milestone in Indian legal history.
7.Rebecca Mammen John
Rebecca Mammen John is a Senior Advocate at the Supreme Court of India, specializing in criminal defense. With a career spanning from her enrollment with the Bar Council of Delhi in 1988, she has become a prominent figure in Indian criminal law. Notably, she represented parties in high-profile cases, such as the families affected by the 1987 Hashimpura massacre, Indian stockbroker Harshad Mehta, and the accused in the Aarushi murder case.
In 2013, John achieved a significant milestone by becoming the first woman designated as a senior counsel by the High Court of Delhi on the criminal side. Her legal expertise extends across a myriad of cases, including defending Indian cricketer S. Sreesanth in the 2013 Indian Premier League spot-fixing and betting case and representing Nupur and Rajesh Talwar, who were accused in the Aarushi murder case, ultimately leading to their acquittal by the Allahabad High Court. She also represented victims’ families in cases related to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and the 1987 Hashimpura massacre, successfully securing convictions and compensation for the affected parties.
John’s legal prowess extends to her role as a Special Public Prosecutor, government counsel, and member of the Internal Complaints Committee of the High Court of Delhi, addressing sexual harassment complaints. She played a vital role in the highly publicized MJ Akbar v. Priya Ramani trial, where she defended journalist Priya Ramani against criminal defamation charges. Her relentless pursuit of justice and her dedication to truth were evident throughout the trial, which resulted in Ramani’s acquittal.
Aside from her courtroom battles, John has been a vocal advocate for criminal law reform in India. She has critiqued existing laws, highlighting issues in police investigations and legal processes. Additionally, she has expressed her opposition to the death penalty, emphasizing the need for a more consistent and humane approach to capital punishment cases.
In her distinguished career, Rebecca Mammen John continues to serve as a beacon of justice, standing up for truth, integrity, and the principles enshrined in the Constitution of India.
A human rights lawyer and researcher known for her work in the areas of women’s rights, communalism, and custodial justice.
Vrinda Grover, a prominent legal expert, researcher, and advocate for human and women’s rights, is based in New Delhi, India. Throughout her career, she has been involved in a diverse range of cases related to human rights violations, sexual and domestic violence, communal massacres, extrajudicial killings, custodial torture, issues concerning sexual minorities, as well as cases involving trade unions and political activists.
Her impact on the legal landscape was internationally recognized when Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2013.
Among her notable cases, Grover played a significant role in the Hashimpura police killings case of 1987, a mass murder incident near Meerut, UP, where 42 Muslims were targeted and their bodies dumped near irrigation canals by the Provincial Armed Constabulary. She also represented Soni Sori in a high-profile rape torture case in Chattisgarh, where Sori, accused of criminal conspiracy, was sexually assaulted in police custody.
In the 2008 Kandhamal Riots of Orissa, Grover stood against Hindu Nationalist groups responsible for killing over 20 Christians, burning 730 houses, and setting 95 churches ablaze in anti-Christian riots incited by Maoists. Additionally, she served as counsel for S.A.R Geelani, one of the main accused in the 2001 Parliament Attack case, where Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad were held accountable for the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament.
In the 2013 Muzzafarnagar Massacre, Grover represented seven victims who were subjected to gang rape during riots between Hindu and Muslim communities. Her legal prowess also extended to legislative contributions, notably in the drafting of crucial bills such as the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010, designed to safeguard individuals from communal and targeted violence, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 dealing with sexual offenses, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
Furthermore, Grover advocated for justice in high-profile cases such as the 1984 Sikh riots and the 2004 Ishrat Jahan case, showcasing her unwavering commitment to human rights and legal activism.
Indu Malhotra, a distinguished legal professional, served as a judge and senior counsel at the Supreme Court of India. She holds the honor of being the second woman designated as a senior advocate by the Supreme Court and was the first female advocate to be directly elevated as a judge of the Supreme Court.
In 1983, Malhotra entered the legal profession, becoming a member of the Bar Council of Delhi. She achieved the top position in the advocate-on-record examination in 1988, receiving the Mukesh Goswami Memorial Prize on National Law Day. Over her career, she served as the standing counsel for the State of Haryana in the Supreme Court from 1991 to 1996, representing various statutory bodies including the Securities Exchange Board of India, Delhi Development Authority, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and Indian Council for Agricultural Research.
Malhotra specialized in arbitration law, participating in numerous domestic and international commercial arbitrations. In December 2016, she became a member of the High-Level Committee in the Ministry of Law and Justice, contributing to the review of the arbitration mechanism in India. After three decades of dedicated service as legal counsel in the Supreme Court, she received unanimous recommendations for her appointment as a judge.
The government confirmed her appointment on 26 April 2018, making her the first woman judge to be elevated directly from the bar. Indu Malhotra retired from her esteemed position on 13 March 2021.
Throughout her career, she appeared significant cases, including Navtej Singh Johar & Ors. versus Union of India (2018), Joseph Shine versus Union of India (2018), India Oxygen v. Collector of Central Excise (1998), Union of India v. Harjeet Singh Sandhu (2001), and SBP & Co. v. Patel Engineering Ltd. (2005).
A senior advocate at the Supreme Court of India, known for her expertise in constitutional, civil, and commercial law cases.
In 1984, Arora was admitted to the bar, commencing her legal practice at the Supreme Court of India from 1986. Achieving the status of an Advocates-on-Record at the Supreme Court in 1989, she also gained valuable experience at Goodwin and Soble, an international law firm based in Washington DC, and served as a partner at the Indian law firm Hemant Sahai and Associates. Notably, her name was proposed by a judges’ collegium in 2010 for elevation to the Delhi High Court; however, she later declined the judgeship. Arora also served as the standing counsel for the Election Commission of India.
In a significant milestone in her career, the full bench of the Supreme Court, under the leadership of then Chief Justice of India P. Sathasivam, designated her as a senior counsel/senior advocate in September 2013, making her the fifth woman to receive this honor.
She played a pivotal role as a member of the drafting committee responsible for formulating The Gender Sensitisation & Sexual Harassment of Women at the Supreme Court of India (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Regulations, 2013.
These regulations were established to safeguard women lawyers from sexual harassment and provide effective grievance redressal at the Supreme Court. Furthermore, Arora served as counsel for one of the petitioners in the Nitisha vs Union of India case.
The rankings of top women lawyers provided on this platform are based on a thorough evaluation process conducted by our team of experts. However, it’s crucial to note that these rankings are subjective and should be considered as general guidelines rather than absolute truths. The legal industry is dynamic, and rankings can change overtime based on various factors, including client portfolios and market trends.