Kapila Hingorani was the first woman from India to graduate from Cardiff Law School, Wales. In the 1970s, she also became the first woman lawyer in India to file a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court. For her constant battle in support of the voiceless and underprivileged, she is still fondly remembered as the Mother of PILs.
Acknowledging her service to society, the Supreme Court plans on decorating its library with her portrait. Though the tribute to her is long overdue, this move makes her the first woman to get the honour in the 67 years of the Supreme Court’s existence.
Kapila was born in 1927 in Nairobi and grew up looking up to Mahatma Gandhi. When she started practising in the Supreme Court, she was one among only three women. However, she stood out in the male-dominated field with her PILs and fighting for the rights of the underprivileged.
The first PIL Kapila filed was for the rights of prisoners awaiting trial, with many spending more time in prison than they would have had they been convicted of the crimes they were accused of. In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court released 40,000 prisoners under trial and according to, stated the following,
“Speedy trial is of the essence of criminal justice and, therefore, delay in trial by itself constitutes denial of justice. Free legal services to the poor and the needy is an essential element of any ‘reasonable, fair, and just’ procedure.”
Eight years after that, National Legal Services Authority was constituted with the aim of providing free legal services to weaker sections of society.
Kapila’s husband was also a lawyer, as are their three children Aman, Priya, and Shweta.
She passed away at the age of 86 in 2014 and her portrait will be hung alongside luminaries like CK Daphtary, RK Jain, and MC Setalvad. According to , Rupinder Suri, President, Supreme Court Bar Association, said about Kapila,
“She was not just a lawyer but a barrister too. She could have lived in the UK, but chose India.”