The treatment of women in the legal profession and the way senior counsels are designated has irked Indira Jaising for years now. To reclaim freedom from the British way of judiciary, she has decided to give up her senior counsel gown from August 15.

“There is a lot of favouritism and then there is also nepotism in the sense that people who are already seniors, after them their children also become senior.”

In a tweet on 11 August, she declared, “On independence day, I am starting a Gown wapasi movement. Wef August I6th will shed my senior counsel gown as a symbol of discrimination.”

Earlier in 2015, Jaising had filed a petition in Supreme Court, challenging the way in which senior counsels are designated. In a telephonic interaction with SheThePeople.TV, Jaising said, “My problem is how the senior counsels are designated since there are no criteria or meritocracy.”

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She added, “There is a lot of favouritism and then there is also nepotism in the sense that people who are already seniors, after them their children also become senior.”

In her petition, the former Additional Solicitor General had asked for laying down a framework to determine merit. The petition was finally heard after all this time on Thursday i.e. 10 August.

In her argument, Jaising points out, “In the case of Padmashree, the court says that although you are given a Padmashree, you can’t use the honour as the prefix or suffix. Then I argued in court that even though you may give the honour of senior counsel to people, but why should they have a different gown?”

She believes that she is starting a movement to counter the symbol of discrimination which comes with the distinct gown. She also said that the Bar council rules nowhere mention that one has to wear a different uniform to proclaim seniority. In fact, it has only one single uniform.

“Seniors are more preferred in the sense that judges listen to them more. They earn more respect and the juniors get shouted at the most. Seniors also charge higher fees.”

“We should go one step ahead and get rid of the gown altogether. There are many countries, for example, in America where lawyers can wear suits as long as it is a low-key colour. There is no need for us to have gowns,” said Jaising.

When questioned how the discrimination happens between junior and senior counsel, she explains, “Seniors are more preferred in the sense that judges listen to them more. They earn more respect and the juniors get shouted at the most. Seniors also charge higher fees.”

Jaising is the first advocate who achieved the honour of Senior Counsel in Mumbai in 1986.

She also talked about how the legal profession excludes women even today. Jaising said, “Judiciary takes women less seriously. I have been through several phases in my career where I have seen the best and the worst. And this is also one of the many reasons why I feel that the whole profession needs reform.”

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