Aishwarya Bhati – Youngest Women Senior Advocate Designated by Supreme Court And Inspiration For All
It must be said in all fairness that Ms Aishwarya Bhati who has several first to her credit has also the much cherished and much coveted feather of being the youngest woman advocate to be designated as a Senior Advocate in the history of the Supreme Court of India which is the highest court in our nation in March 2019. This itself speaks volumes of her bright talent in abundance which goes without saying anything! It also goes without saying that she also has the unique distinction of being one of India’s youngest Additional Solicitor General (ASG) of India appointed on June 30, 2020 which she still continues to hold and apart from this she also has to her credit the honour of being only the 4th woman to occupy this most distinguished position by dint of her sheer merit and merit alone! She is an inspiration not just for women alone who seek to make a mark for themselves as a lawyer but even for men also as she has achieved so early in her life till now what even men cannot achieve so early in their life!
It must also be mentioned here that she did her Class XII from Kendriya Vidyalaya, Air Force, Jodhpur in 1992. She then did her B.Sc from K.N. College, JNV University, Jodhpur from 1992-1995. She then most commendably did her LL.B. spectacularly from Law Faculty, JNV University Jodhpur (Gold Medalist) from 1995-1998 and then she did her LL.M. from Law Faculty, JNV University Jodhpur in 1998-2000.
It must also be mentioned here that she was elected twice as Secretary of the most prestigious Supreme Court Bar Association, in December 2013 and again in December 2014, with a record margin. She participates regularly in Television debates and deliberations and National Conferences on myriad legal issues of national importance relating to Administration of Justice and Women’s Rights. She was adjudged as the Best Student Advocate of the Country in the All India Moot Court Competition organized by the Campus Law Center, Delhi University in 1998. She was the Best NCC Cadet from Rajasthan, commanded the Rajasthan NCC Contingent in the Republic Day Camp-1994, was Right Marker of the Marching Contingent on Rajpath and was also awarded the Cherry Blossom Trophy for the best turned-out Cadet. She was also selected for the coveted Indo-Canada Youth Exchange Programme 1995, and represented India for the same in Canada. She is also a Solo Glider Pilot, exemplary shooter and horse rider, have participated in many adventure activities with NCC. She also has been adjudged as the Best Student Parliamentarian of the National Youth Parliament in 1990-1991. She also had the privilege of being chosen as the Head Girl and Best Student of the School in 1992. She has always participated in a variety of extracurricular activities, including academic, sports and cultural and represented School and College at State, Regional and National Level.
It must also be disclosed here that Ms Aishwarya Bhati was also the former Additional Advocate General for the State of UP in the Supreme Court from 2017 – 2020 and she performed her job most commendably. She was also the counsel for the High Court of Delhi in the Supreme Court. She also had been in the Panel Lawyer of Supreme Court Legal Services Committee (SCLSC), Supreme Court Middle Income Group Legal Aid Society (MIG) and Amicus Curiae where she again gave her best.
It also goes without saying that she has also been in the forefront always while fighting for women’s rights as we saw in the leading case when she lead from the front while crusading for the rights of the women officers of the tri-services who earlier were eligible only for Short Service Commission and had to leave defence services after the term was over. She considered this as “most discriminatory” that cannot be accepted meekly by women under any circumstances and all credit to her that she was able to convince the top court by dint of her superb presentation that women are in no way inferior to men and we also saw how her brilliant arguments presented in the most elegant and eloquent manner were able to turn the tides in favour of women officers and the dice that was loaded initially against them was turned ultimately in their favour. She has also in her 25 year long career fought with full zeal for the rights of women, children and persons with disabilities and so also has been a crusader advocate for anti-tobacco litigation.
While giving a very brief background about herself in an interview, senior advocate and ASG – Aishwarya Bhati herself said most candidly that, “I am from Jodhpur, Rajasthan. My father was in the Indian Air Force and I am from a very traditional family of Rajasthan. Strong values and discipline are inculcated in the family at a very early stage. As a student, I was extremely involved in extra-curricular activities. I studied at Kendriya Vidyalaya which is a melting pot of the nation. Students from all over the country, from all religions, all walks of life were there. Though it did not feel so special at that time, when one looks back at the journey, one realises that unity in diversity is something that you grew up in. I joined NCC after that. I enjoyed the adventure activities such as parasailing. I also became a solo glider pilot with NCC. That gave me wings to my dream that I want to become a pilot. I got a sense of discipline and unity from NCC but unfortunately, that did not work out for me. Albeit, I will be forever grateful to NCC for all the opportunities it gave and helped me become the person I am. I have also led a marching contingent at Rajpath as the right marker and was adjudged as the best cadre from Rajasthan in the Republic Day camp. I also won a lot of accolades wherein I even got selected for the Indo-Canada Youth Exchange Program in 1994.” All these are definitely great achievements which everyone will like to have in his/her own bio-data!
While elaborating further, she disclosed also that, “The next chapter of my life unfurled in the field of law. I am practising before the Supreme Court of India for the last 24 years. I am an accidental lawyer. It has been a brilliant journey though; law was not my first love. I wanted to be a pilot in the Air Force but I failed in pilot aptitude exam. I did not know what to do after that. My elder brother, Justice P.S. Bhati, who is now a sitting Judge at the Rajasthan High Court and the first lawyer in the family, persuaded me to take up law and there has not been any looking back after that. I took to the law like how fish takes to water; enjoyed every step of my journey as a student of law.”
What is truly remarkable about her for which she deserves to be wholeheartedly applauded is that she does not hide anything and she further feels no hesitation in revealing about her initial failure which she faced and which only served further to make her more determined to pursue her goal with more dedication! She certainly has the rare courage to speak the ultimate truth about herself which is a very great quality that has to be certainly admired always and most significantly imbibed also as very few of us can own up for our initial setbacks in our life so candidly!
While giving an insight about her initial days of struggle in her career she lays bare in an interview revealing in her own words that, “I was in 2nd year of law when I got married. I was a young mother before I had my first matter. The early profession was very difficult for me. I wanted to give up. I did not think I had the strength to keep going. I used to feel very guilty. For 2 years, I did not go to the Court except for Mondays and Fridays which were miscellaneous days at the Supreme Court. For a very long time, I was sitting at home whereby thinking that I could not do much. My mother persuaded, inspired and motivated me. She asked me “When Jhansi ki Rani went on war with her child then how can your children be a hindrance for you?” After her encouragement, I kept trying harder and harder to carve a niche for myself. As it is said, where there is a will there is a way. When you are determined about doing something then you make your way.”
No doubt, we all too must also ingrain in ourselves what she has said so honestly and this will certainly work wonders in our respective lives also if we strictly adhere to what she said about the initial struggles in her own life! How many of us can reveal about ourself so candidly about our initial struggles in life so honestly? To be brutally honest, at least I myself can never do it so easily as she has done actually!
While revealing more about her professional journey, she lays bare in her own words saying candidly that, “I was appointed as an Additional Solicitor General after having a private practice for over 20 years. Before becoming the Additional Solicitor General, I was the Additional Advocate General for the State of Uttar Pradesh. I had some idea about State litigation there but becoming an ASG has been a quantum lead. It has been such an incremental jump in the kind of work that I now deal with. The matters that I now have are matters of national importance. I deal with issues that are arising across the country from different fields of environment, taxation, corporate law, arbitration, and many more. I deal with the extremely technical aspect of law now. Representing the Union of India is a great privilege and a great learning experience for me. When I used to appear for a private client, I always felt that it is the citizen versus the State. Now, different perception has been added to my outlook. Now, it has been around two years representing the Union of India and when you appear for the Union of India, it is the collective citizenry that you are representing. When you are appearing for policy issues, you have to bring to the court’s notice all the other aspects as India is a country in which not all people will look at issues from the same perspective. You have to show the entire prism to the court. This is a huge learning experience. You learn every day. It is like so far you were far a foot soldier representing State and suddenly you are a commander being trained for special operations.”
While dwelling on the three skills to law students and to those who have entered fresh in the legal profession, she points out graciously and candidly that, “I believe in 3 capital Hs. I feel that those 3 capital Hs are critical not just for a law student but even when you are continuing law. Those are the 3 fundamental features for anyone to be a meaningful lawyer. The first one is hard work. It is not a profession in which you can sprint, take shortcuts or perform half-heartedly. Law is a profession that requires your brain, heart, soul, fingers, toes, fingernails, hair, everything. It requires a huge contribution and dedication from you. If you want to choose a profession that you want to do along with other things then this is not a profession for you. You will have to work wholeheartedly. Second H is for honesty. When I say so, it is not the honesty that we understand in common parlance. This honesty is professional honesty. Honesty to the cause of the client that you have taken up; the effort it is going to take to represent the cause before the court of law requires honesty; honesty to the court, honesty to your counterpart, and above all honesty to your conscience. Honesty is unimpeachable in this profession. There are lots of jokes which go around “lawyers are liars” or “you need to be a good liar if you want to be a lawyer” but these are jokes made on the lighter side. Lawyers who do not have unimpeachable integrity will never be able to sustain a peaceful and prolonged practice because then clients will not come back to you if you know that there is a price on which you sell and on which your integrity shakes. On the other hand, if you have unimpeachable integrity, even people who would have tried to approach you to walk on the wrong side for them will also come back to you if they see that you are unshaken. Unimpeachable integrity and honesty are non-negotiable skills required in law. Third H is for humility. Nobody comes to a lawyer in happiness or joy. People come to lawyers in grief and despair and when they face dejection and disappointment from all other places. Courts are the places of last resort. No one is happy coming to courts apart from judges and lawyers. We have the opportunity to become the harbinger for our clients to access justice. I have done very substantial pro bono work. In earlier years, it used to feel that I am helping people and it is me who is gaining something – morally and experience-wise. But I think it is important to bear in mind that even if you are helping somebody it is the blessings of God and it is the karma that you have done that has somewhere put you in this situation that you are the help giver and not help taker. Wherever you have reached it is not your hard work alone – hard work is imperative but there is a lot more for any person to succeed in life. Humility in the larger force of the providence and the strength of blessings and prayers that we should always believe in.” No denying this!
Furthermore, she also hastens to add while talking about her fight for permanent commission for women in armed forces that, “It was a very instrumental journey in itself. I was privileged. I was the one who had the honour of representing those women. Litigation is like role play wherein we become like actors when we are arguing and presenting our case. When we step into the shoes of our clients, that is, the only way we know where the shoe is biting. If you do not step into the shoes, you will not be able to understand the pain or the pinch they feel. You can never submit before the court objectively and dispassionately. When you get to role play, you do not have the option to say no. Professional ethics bind us to take every matter. As lawyers, you get many matters that you believe in and there are a lot of matters in which you do not believe especially when you are representing people who are accused in criminal cases. You can never believe in rape and murder but you still represent your clients and do your best to give them the remedies provided under due process of law. As lawyers, you must see that they have a constructive day at court, and rule of law prevails. But occasionally, you get matters with strong issues which are so close to your heart. As a woman lawyer, I joined a profession that is male bastioned. I had a whole set of experiential learning that I saw in my journey. Then I come across these women officers who are also in the male bastioned profession. You see, I figured out the similarity between their journey and my experience. There are a lot of similarities. Lawyers who get matters where they believe in the causes that is a great opportunity. I am blessed to have got that. I feel equally elated and thrilled we got such a phenomenal judgment from the Supreme Court of India.”
It cannot be denied ever even by her worst critics that this particular case was discussed all around the world and she by dint of her merit and merit alone gathered international headlines all across the globe for leading this high profile case to its logical conclusion much to the delight of all those woman officers who were fighting the legal battle in court with Ms Aishwarya Bhati leading them! She has dispelled the notion that women can’t reach the top of the ladder in the legal profession at a very young age and argue successfully against top men lawyers with such elegance as she has done in her own life!
While giving further insight to young lawyers, she underscores most commendably that, “It is a different feeling altogether where you have just finished your education and you are trying to get into the next phase of life. When we get our education, apprehensions are bound to be there. I do not think anybody needs to be fearful in any way. Anxiety can prevail, but apprehension cannot because this is not a profession that you can practice with apprehension. There is nothing for you to worry about. It is just an extension. The constitutional courts are the best of the Ivy League colleges in our country. And so the education continues. The level of lawyering and the discussion is so robust that you have amazing learning that goes on in every courtroom. Determine a line in which you want to spend the rest of your life and then jump into it. Even after jumping into it if you feel that this is not what you want to do in your life, then move on to find something else. I am a strong believer in what Steve Jobs used to say “keep on moving till you find doing what you love and till then keep moving”. I think each one of us must be in that area that we love. Sometimes love happens at first sight and sometimes love develops with time. If you feel love for the profession then growth and success are bound to come. This is not a profession that gives rewards early. No matter who starts early, it is going to take time. Be ready for it.”
Adding more to it, Ms Aishwarya Bhati further in her advice to young lawyers had said that, “It is a journey of self-discovery. It is a beautiful profession. If we have our focus that this noble profession enables and empowers us to make a difference in people’s lives, to society, and the nation, then you are going to love the journey.” Who says women cannot reach the top? She is definitely a living and a shining example of how sincere and relentless struggle can lead us to the top from the ground level and help us carve a distinct niche for ourselves in our respective fields if we too lead our life in most disciplined manner as she has led! We all who are struggling to make a mark for ourself in our respective profession especially those who are in the legal field must gain positive inspiration from her who had no godfather in the legal profession yet she rose so high and her career is still yet to reach her peak as she is still quite young and so we all also must like her strive to give our best as she has done so gallantly all alone totally on her own merit and her own genius and hard work which has done wonders in her life. We too can do similarly if we follow her in our own life accordingly! No denying it!