Himanjali Gautam is an Advocate at the Supreme Court of India. She has been handling cases independently, since 2016 and had worked as Legal Counsel for various notable organisations including Zoom Developers. She has assisted senior Advocate Mr P.H. Parekh in representing leading organisations like Reliance Industries Ltd. and people at eminent positions including the President of India and former Chief Ministers.
Apart from working as a lawyer under constitutional obligations, she has led various campaigns for the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections and legal awareness initiatives in remote locations of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.
The proficiency extends to various other fields which assess her to be an enthusiastic chess player and a Femina Style Diva 2013 finalist. She has had an active involvement as a Speaker at various conferences on Inclusive Growth and worked on Civil, Criminal, Revenue, Company, Competition, Environment Law and PIL cases. She has also authored several articles and appears frequently on various national news channels on issues of national importance.
Legal Bites: Ma’am, you studied law extensively during your college years and have been practising law in the Supreme Court for about 8 years now. But before you studied law, you were a political science graduate. What motivated you to pursue law?
Himanjali Gautam: I think the biggest motivation for me is my Mother, who I have seen her, constantly engaged in social work and uplifting the downtrodden. I always wanted to play my part to uplift the poor and marginalized section. I felt that it is only through law that I could interact with them so closely and bring change.
Additionally, I find a very reasonable and important nexus between law and political science. Unlike others who choose conventional fields after graduation like joining academics or serving as a research associate, I actually went for law because I believe when it comes to the law, the sky is the limit. You have a lot of career choices after law and for somebody like me who always thinks and act out of the box, I felt law is the perfect option.
And I must tell you that being a first-generation lawyer is a huge challenge in India and during the course of my journey I’ve faced huge hurdles, the mantra is to stay courageous.
Legal Bites: Women empowerment has been discussed a lot but somehow, women in the villages are often very suppressed and abused although there are safeguards to protect the rights of each person constitutionally. What seems to be the problem there?
Himanjali Gautam: This is something which I have seen and observed very closely. The need of the hour is ‘Legal awareness’, women in villages and small towns must be made aware of their rights through Legal Awareness, it is because of lack of Legal Awareness that these women remain in the shadow and become a target of suppression and abuse.
I visited many Districts and Small Towns across Uttar Pradesh & Haryana, and realized my duty as a lawyer is to provide these women legal representation that they lack.
Apart from Legal Representation, I have been visiting these Districts & Towns for legal awareness programmes involving Women, and there are major issues that I identified owing to the patriarchal structure of the society, such as women not reporting atrocities committed against them because of the very fear that they will be thrown out of their matrimonial home and their family will not accept them back.
There is still a persisting tendency in the villages and small towns that marriage is a priority over education and hence women are taught ‘just enough’ before marrying them, a lot of it also revolves around financial crisis in these poorer households. This is very saddening but things are changing slowly.
I can assure you that ‘Legal Awareness’ is the key.
Legal Bites: You are a strong believer in educating the poor about their rights. You have taken up the issue of the benefits of governmental schemes, not reaching the poor. As you have worked for the same cause, could you tell us about the steps that you took and how can each one of us contribute towards the noble cause?
Himanjali Gautam: To begin with, I think the core issue with government schemes not reaching the poor is lack of awareness about those schemes.
Secondly, I believe Corruption also plays a role.
At some places, the local administration is at such a dominant position that they do not allow outsiders to engage or interact with the local people. I’ve been working on educating the needy and downtrodden ever since my graduation. I’m of the firm opinion that the best way to educate the poorer sections of the society is through methods such as conducting seminars in that particular district or area and various other mobilisation methods.
You’ll see that once you educate a single member of a family, the domino effect will begin and that member will tell someone else and thereafter the information spreads from one person to another.
Individually we can educate the community where we reside and that is the biggest role we can play.
Legal Bites: ‘Black Lives Matter’ has taken The United States by storm and discrimination is a worrisome problem indeed. There are many issues relating to discrimination against women and Dalits in India despite the provisions in the constitution. Does India need a similar movement?
Himanjali Gautam: I agree with your point that there is still discrimination in our Indian society, especially when it comes to women empowerment and Dalits rights.
But we, as a citizen of this country need to understand that protest is not the permanent solution to every problem. Instead, what I think and in my view will be more effective, is our combined effort.
Let’s unite and raise a voice against this discrimination as one body. Let’s pledge to each other that we will not promote any kind of discrimination from our end and we will stand with the victims and raise our voice for them.
We need to educate people regarding this constantly. If every single citizen will start performing this as his/her duty towards this nation, then I don’t think that it can exist for a long period of time.
Legal Bites: You recently expressed your concerns over the mishandling of the deceased COVID-19 patients. Every person has the ‘Right to live and die with dignity’ constitutionally. According to you, what steps should have been taken by the government to uphold this right of the dead and their lamenting families in these stressful times?
Himanjali Gautam: According to me the steps that should be taken by the government are:
- First of all, the beds should be given to all as per the needs without any restrictions.
- This is a pandemic, which means things can’t be dealt the way it can be in normal circumstances, things can’t be taken for granted. The condition is serious and the actions taken, should also be very firm. So, as per me, there should be a penalty clause for those who are not taking the precautions properly especially in public. If someone is not wearing a mask, then impose a penalty on him. We can’t wait for the infection to affect our citizens. So, take firm steps by ensuring the proper supply & chain connections.
- Provide all the necessary products to the health care warriors and our brave police personnel without delay.
- Keep on checking the hospital facilities of the cities. If someone is casual in his approach then, immediately take action.
Legal Bites: Ma’am, nepotism has been in the news lately. And you have been vocal about your experience with a similar situation and about how nepotism exists in every walk of life. How do you get through the situations where you do not get an opportunity because of the nepotism that exists in the field of law?
Himanjali Gautam: It’s something which is very personal to me and unfortunately it’s very painful. I never wanted to disclose it but the unfortunate suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput just triggered something in me. I had realized that if I will not speak, then who else is going to speak about it. If something wrong exists, then we need to condemn it instead of avoiding it because by avoiding it, the wrong will remain at its place.
Let’s not normalize unethical practices and call out those who treat people differently on the basis of ‘Connections’. I am not a damsel in distress and my experiences have only made me a stronger and better professional. Having said that, it is always good to fight for your rights and ensure that in future, nobody else suffers the same pain as you did.
I was told that I don’t belong in Supreme Court. I always had confidence in myself and such comments or incidents only made me work harder. Today, I have made my own identity and I don’t need any acknowledgement or validation from such people.
Consistent efforts, hard work and self-belief is the key.
Legal Bites: If you could give only one advice to the budding lawyers out there, what would it be?
Himanjali Gautam: Never give up is the one thing that I would like to say to all the budding lawyers of this nation. Never underestimate yourself. Watch your inner dialogue and make sure that it’s not negative. Never say that I can’t do or now I am done. This should not be your attitude. Just keep in mind that even if I don’t know anything, then also I will keep on learning and I will not give up.
Thank You so much for talking to us. It was our pleasure interviewing you.