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Posted at: Aug 10, 2015, 12:24 AM; last updated: Aug 9, 2015, 11:52 PM (IST)

Valley women begin innings in court of law

Woman power at Bar

  • In 1973, the Bar in Kashmir had one woman lawyer. In the coming years, a few more women lawyers joined the Bar. Prominent among them wereGous-un-Nissa, Sudesh Wariko and Kaneez Fatima
  • Gous and Wariko, after excelling at the Bar, joined the judiciary and retired as the Principal District and Sessions Judges. Kaneez is currently Registrar General of the J&K High Court
  • Of over 1,000 lawyers at the Bar in Srinagar, more than 110 are women, constituting over 10 per cent of the Bar strength
Valley women begin innings in court of law

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court in Srinagar. A Tribune photo

Ishfaq Tantry

Srinagar, August 9

Bashir Ahmad Bashir, a senior High Court lawyer, remembers his days as a young lawyer in 1973 when there was only one woman lawyer in the Bar, a Kashmiri Pandit girl.

“She was the cynosure of all eyes at the Bar then,” Bashir said without naming the lady lawyer.

But a year or two later, some more women joined the Bar in Srinagar, increasing their strength by a few decimals. Some of these women lawyers were Jameela Bashir, Gous-un-Nissa, Sudesh Wariko and Kaneez Fatima.

Gous-un-Nissa and Sudesh Wariko retired as the Principal District and Sessions Judges, advocate Bashir says.

Bashir’s wife Jameela Bashir, also a lawyer, also served as the senior legal adviser for the Consumer Commission and the Women’s Commission before stopping practice.

Kaneez Fatima, who also served as the Principal District and Sessions Judge, is currently Registrar General of the J&K High Court, one of the coveted positions in the legal profession.

However, the trend since has reversed and women at the bar in Srinagar comprise about 10 per cent of its total strength.

“At present, the J&K High Court Bar Association in Srinagar has over 1,000 registered lawyers as members. Among them, around 110 are women lawyers, practising at the lower courts and at the High Court,” says advocate M Ashraf Bhat, secretary of the Bar Association.

Bhat added that in the Valley, the total number of women lawyers registered with the district and other Bars was around 500.

“The trend of Kashmiri women joining the legal profession is quite old. These days you will find more women lawyers in Kashmir,” says Bashir, whose daughters, Falak Bashir and Farah Bashir, are currently practising as lawyers at the lower courts and the High Court, respectively.

“I did not force them to join my profession. It was their decision to join the legal profession,” he says.

Like Falak and Farah, there are many women lawyers, pleading and fighting cases, from service matters, revenue, criminal and militancy-related cases to representing high-profile and hardcore militants.

‘Became a lawyer to document human rights’ 

“I joined this profession to work and document human rights. Besides, there is lot of independence working as a lawyer,” says a young lawyer, Munnazah, who joined the Bar a year and a half ago. “I told my parents that I wanted to study law. They never stopped me,” she says. She says more young girls in Kashmir are now opting for law and working as lawyers.

‘The legal profession is intellectually challenging, but rewarding’

Shahzana Durrani, who joined the Bar at Srinagar in 2008, says being a lawyer is intellectually challenging, but at the same time fulfilling and rewarding. “I am a first-generation lawyer in my family. My parents supported me to study law and practise as a lawyer,” Shazana said. She takes up civil and service law cases at the High Court in Srinagar. “Though this profession is male dominated not only in Kashmir but also outside, over the years I have discovered that this is also a respectable profession for women,” she added.

‘Women working as independent lawyers is an encouraging sign’ 

“Since the day I joined the Bar as a young lawyer in 2003, I see that more women lawyers have been taking up this profession. What is encouraging is that a majority of these young lawyers are working as independent lawyers, a shift from the past practice, when most women lawyers would work as associates of senior male lawyers,” says advocate Urfi, one of the sought-after women lawyers for human rights and militancy-related cases. “When I joined, there were a few women lawyers, but today the situation has improved. As compared to men, women lawyers are finding more acceptance among clients as they are considered dedicated and honest,” says Urfi, who is “satisfied and comfortable” as a lawyer. Urfi was one of the lawyers who represented the slain Hizbul Mujahideen militant from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Waheed Noor. Waheed was killed in a blast in north Kashmir’s Hygam in June this year.

‘Not easy to survive in male-dominated setting’ 

Moksha Kazimi, who is originally from Jammu but settled in Kashmir for the past over two decades after she joined the profession in 1996, says it is not an easy task to sustain as a woman lawyer in a male-dominated setting. “As a lawyer, I am happy and enjoy my profession. But being a woman lawyer has its own challenges, especially when you are married. You need to divide your time between your family, children and work. That way it is a balancing and delicate act,” says Moksha, whose clientele is mainly from the Ladakh region.


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