Mother Of PILs, Kapila Hingorani, To Become First Woman To Get A Portrait In The SC Library

Mother Of PILs, Kapila Hingorani, To Become First Woman To Get A Portrait In The SC Library

Ms. Kapila Hingorani is set to become the first woman lawyer whose portrait will adorn the walls of the Supreme Court library for the first time in its 67-year history.

The portrait was unveiled on Tuesday by Chief Justice Deepak Misra, who rightly said that "this was long overdue".

Popularly known as the 'Mother of PILs', Ms. Hingorani was born in 1927 in Nairobi and grew up idolizing Mahatma Gandhi. She was reportedly the first girl from her community to travel to the UK in the year 1947 for higher studies and is believed to be the first woman to graduate from Cardiff Law School, Wales. She began practicing in the Supreme Court of India in 1961, at a time when there were just three woman lawyers at the Court.

Her most notable contribution to law and society was the initiation of the unique remedial jurisprudence of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in India in 1979. The very first PIL in India, which was filed and argued by Ms. Hingorani in the Supreme Court, pertained to undertrial prisoners languishing in jail for cruelly long periods, at times exceeding the period they would have been in jail had they been tried, convicted and given maximum sentence.

The historic case, later known to every law student in India as Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary, Bihar, led to the reading of the fundamental right of speedy trial as being implicit in Article 21 of the Constitution and to the immediate release of about 40,000 undertrial prisoners.

The Supreme Court Bar Association had then, in its Resolution of March 2, 1979, recorded the "deep appreciation of the Bar Association in regard to the services rendered" by Ms. Hingorani in the Undertrial Prisoners' Case.

Since then, Ms. Hingorani, along with her husband Mr. Nirmal Hingorani, took up almost 100 PIL cases pro bono which, in practical terms, have provided relief to millions of people at their doorsteps.

While she did have to overcome prejudices within the legal fraternity initially, her efforts did attract  recognition and appreciation, nationally and internationally, over time. For instance, the Cardiff University conferred upon her the Honorary Fellowship of the University in 2007, and the Supreme Court Bar Association honored her in 2011 for completing 50 years at the Bar. She was, in fact, the senior most woman lawyer enrolled with the Supreme Court until her passing away on 30 December, 2013.