“In the face of adversity, resilience and perseverance, become invaluable assets. Embrace setbacks as opportunities for growth and learning” – Dr Meenakshi Kalra, Advocate-on-Record at the Supreme Court of India

This interview has been published by Namrata Singh and The SuperLawyer Team

💡 Reflecting on your journey, what inspired you to choose law as a career, and could you share about your journey, challenges you faced during your academic and professional pursuits, as well as how you overcame them?

Choosing law as a career was a natural progression for me, deeply ingrained in my family’s legacy. Growing up surrounded by legal discussions, court visits, and a lineage of esteemed lawyers and judges, I developed an innate passion for the field from a young age. Witnessing my parents’ dedication to justice and advocacy instilled in me a profound sense of purpose to follow in their footsteps and contribute to the legal profession.

However, embarking on this path was not without its challenges. Throughout my academic journey, I encountered rigorous academic demands and navigated through complex legal concepts. Balancing academic commitments with extracurricular activities and personal responsibilities posed its own set of challenges. Additionally, as a young woman entering a predominantly male-dominated profession, I encountered skepticism and occasional resistance.

Yet, every challenge became an opportunity for growth. I embraced each obstacle as a chance to learn and evolve. I sought guidance from mentors, drew strength from my family’s support, and remained steadfast in my determination. Perseverance, resilience, and a relentless pursuit of excellence became my guiding principles. Through dedication and hard work, I overcame academic hurdles, excelled in my studies, and honed my legal acumen. Each milestone, whether securing prestigious awards, representing clients in landmark cases, or contributing to legal education and advocacy, reinforced my passion for the law and reaffirmed my purpose.

Moreover, I recognized the importance of championing diversity and inclusion within the legal profession. I seized opportunities to advocate for gender equality, promote access to justice, and challenge systemic barriers. By leveraging my voice and platform, I endeavored to pave the way for future generations of aspiring lawyers, especially women, to thrive in the legal arena. In essence, my journey embodies the transformative power of resilience, determination, and unwavering commitment to one’s passion. Every challenge I faced served as a stepping stone towards personal and professional growth, reinforcing my conviction to make a meaningful difference in the legal landscape.

💡 Your family has a strong legal background, with your grandfather serving as the Judge of Punjab & Haryana High Court. How has this legacy influenced your journey in law, and what values do you carry forward from this lineage?

Growing up in a family with a profound legal legacy has been both a privilege and a source of inspiration for me. The influence of my grandfather, who served as the Judge of Punjab & Haryana High Court, and my parents, who are accomplished lawyers, has been profound in shaping my journey in law.

From a young age, I was immersed in an environment where discussions on legal principles, courtroom strategies, and the pursuit of justice were commonplace. Witnessing their unwavering commitment to upholding the rule of law, advocating for the marginalized, and fostering integrity and ethics in legal practice instilled in me a deep sense of reverence for the profession.

The values instilled by my family’s legacy serve as guiding principles in my own legal journey. Integrity, honesty, and professionalism are non-negotiables in my practice. I carry forward the legacy of upholding the principles of fairness, justice, and equity in every case I undertake.

Moreover, the legacy of my family has instilled in me a profound sense of responsibility to use my legal knowledge and skills to serve society. I strive to emulate their dedication to public service and make a positive impact in the lives of those in need.

Overall, my family’s legal background has not only shaped my career but also imbued me with a deep appreciation for the law’s transformative power and the importance of using it as a tool for social justice and change. Their legacy continues to inspire me to strive for excellence and uphold the highest standards of legal practice.

💡 As a partner at “S N KALRA & CO.,” you’ve been actively involved in handling diverse cases, from civil and recovery matters to corporate and criminal issues. Could you elaborate on the challenges and rewards of managing such a varied caseload, and how do you approach ensuring the best outcomes for your clients across these different legal domains?

Managing a diverse caseload spanning civil, corporate, and criminal matters indeed presents both challenges and rewards. The spectrum of legal issues demands a multifaceted approach, requiring adaptability, diligence, and a deep understanding of each client’s unique needs and circumstances. 

One of the primary challenges lies in navigating the complexities inherent in each area of law. From intricate corporate transactions to high-stakes criminal defense cases, each matter requires meticulous attention to detail and a comprehensive understanding of relevant legal frameworks. Moreover, staying abreast of evolving laws and precedents across multiple domains necessitates continuous learning and professional development.

However, it is precisely this diversity that makes the practice of law so rewarding. Each case presents a new opportunity to apply legal expertise creatively, strategize effectively, and advocate zealously on behalf of our clients. Whether it’s securing a favorable judgment in a civil dispute, crafting innovative solutions to complex corporate challenges, or safeguarding our clients’ rights in criminal proceedings, the satisfaction of achieving successful outcomes is unparalleled.

To ensure the best possible outcomes for our clients across these diverse legal domains, we adopt a client-centric approach rooted in collaboration, communication, and proactive problem-solving. We begin by gaining a comprehensive understanding of our clients’ objectives, concerns, and constraints. By forging strong client relationships built on trust and transparency, we can tailor our legal strategies to align with their goals effectively. Moreover, our firm’s interdisciplinary team comprising legal experts from various practice areas enables us to leverage collective knowledge and resources to address multifaceted legal issues comprehensively. We prioritize open communication and regular updates to keep our clients informed and empowered throughout the legal process.

Furthermore, our commitment to excellence drives us to continuously refine our skills, stay updated on emerging legal trends, and leverage innovative technologies and methodologies to enhance our legal services. By embracing a holistic approach that integrates legal expertise with practical insights and a deep understanding of our clients’ industries, we strive to deliver superior outcomes and exceed our clients’ expectations consistently.

In essence, while managing a diverse caseload presents its share of challenges, the rewards of making a positive impact in our clients’ lives and contributing to the administration of justice far outweigh the obstacles. By approaching each case with dedication, professionalism, and a relentless pursuit of excellence, we endeavor to achieve optimal results and uphold the trust placed in us by our clients.

💡In addition to your legal practice, you actively engage in public activism, championing gender equality, and fighting for students’ rights. Could you share a bit about the causes you’re passionate about and the role you believe lawyers play in societal change?

Certainly. Beyond my legal practice, my engagement in public activism stems from a deep-seated commitment to advocating for social justice and equality. Gender equality, in particular, holds a special significance for me, given the persistent disparities and injustices faced by women and marginalized communities.

As a female advocate in a profession historically dominated by men, I recognize the importance of amplifying the voices of women and advocating for equal opportunities and rights. Whether it’s challenging discriminatory practices in the workplace, advocating for gender-sensitive legal reforms, or promoting women’s empowerment through education and economic opportunities, gender equality remains a central tenet of my activism. Moreover, my advocacy extends to championing students’ rights, recognizing the pivotal role education plays in shaping future generations and fostering societal progress. From advocating for inclusive education policies to addressing systemic issues such as bullying, harassment, and discrimination within educational institutions, I strive to create a conducive learning environment where every student can thrive and fulfill their potential.

As lawyers, we occupy a unique position of influence and responsibility in society. Beyond our role as legal practitioners, we serve as advocates for justice, agents of change, and guardians of the rule of law. Our expertise in navigating legal frameworks, understanding complex issues, and advocating for the rights of individuals and communities equips us with the tools to effect meaningful societal change. Lawyers play a critical role in shaping public discourse, influencing policy decisions, and holding institutions and individuals accountable for their actions. By leveraging our legal knowledge, skills, and platforms, we can drive positive change across diverse spheres, whether it’s advancing human rights, promoting environmental sustainability, or combating systemic injustices.

Furthermore, lawyers have a duty to uphold the principles of fairness, equity, and access to justice. By providing legal assistance to marginalized communities, representing underserved populations pro bono, and advocating for systemic reforms to address structural inequalities, we can contribute to building a more just and equitable society.

In essence, lawyers have a profound obligation to use their legal expertise and advocacy skills to advance the common good and promote positive societal change. By embracing our role as catalysts for progress, we can harness the power of law to create a more inclusive, equitable, and just world for all.

💡You’ve filed a PIL against Live Surgery Broadcast by Doctors. What prompted you to take on this specific issue, and what do you hope to achieve through this legal action?

The decision to file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against the broadcast of live surgeries by doctors was driven by a profound concern for patient welfare, medical ethics, and the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship. The practice of live surgery broadcasts, while ostensibly intended for educational purposes, raises significant ethical and legal concerns regarding patient consent, privacy rights, and professional conduct.

First and foremost, live surgery broadcasts entail inherent risks to patient privacy and confidentiality. Broadcasting surgical procedures without adequate consent not only violates patients’ right to privacy but also undermines their dignity and autonomy. Moreover, the potential for exploitation or sensationalization of vulnerable patients for entertainment or commercial purposes further compounds the ethical dilemmas associated with this practice.

Furthermore, live surgery broadcasts raise serious questions regarding medical ethics and professional conduct. Physicians have a duty of care towards their patients, which includes respecting their privacy, maintaining confidentiality, and prioritizing their well-being above all else. Broadcasting surgeries without explicit consent not only breaches these ethical obligations but also undermines public trust in the medical profession.

Additionally, the potential for medical errors or complications during live surgeries poses risks to patient safety and quality of care. The pressure to perform flawlessly in front of a live audience may incentivize surgeons to prioritize spectacle over patient welfare, leading to suboptimal outcomes or adverse events. Through this legal action, my aim is to challenge the legality and ethical implications of live surgery broadcasts and advocate for stricter regulations and guidelines governing this practice. I hope to raise awareness about the potential risks and consequences associated with broadcasting surgeries without adequate safeguards in place.

Ultimately, I seek to uphold the principles of medical ethics, protect patient rights, and safeguard the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship. By holding accountable those who engage in unethical or exploitative practices, I aim to promote a culture of accountability, professionalism, and patient-centered care within the medical community.

In essence, this PIL represents a commitment to advancing the interests of patients, upholding ethical standards in healthcare, and ensuring that medical practices prioritize patient welfare above all else. Through legal advocacy and public awareness, I hope to effect meaningful change and contribute to a healthcare system that is grounded in principles of integrity, compassion, and respect for human dignity.

💡 As the Chairperson of the Legal Wing at NCDWDC, what initiatives or projects are you currently focusing on to promote legal awareness and women’s rights?

As the Chairperson of the Legal Wing at NCDWDC (National Child and Women Development Council), my primary focus is on implementing initiatives and projects aimed at promoting legal awareness and advancing women’s rights, particularly for differently-abled women.

One of the key initiatives we are currently focusing on is legal literacy and empowerment programs tailored specifically for differently-abled women. These programs aim to educate women about their rights under various laws, including those related to disability rights, gender equality, protection against discrimination, and access to justice. Through workshops, seminars, and outreach activities, we seek to empower differently-abled women with the knowledge and tools to assert their rights and navigate the legal system effectively.

Additionally, we are actively engaged in advocacy efforts to raise awareness about the unique challenges faced by differently-abled women and advocate for policy reforms to address their needs. This includes advocating for the implementation of inclusive policies and programs that promote equal access to education, employment, healthcare, and social services for differently-abled women. Furthermore, we are working to establish support networks and resource centers specifically for differently-abled women, where they can access legal assistance, counselling services, and other forms of support tailored to their needs. These centers serve as safe spaces where women can seek guidance, connect with peers, and access resources to address their legal and socio-economic challenges.

Moreover, we are collaborating with government agencies, non-profit organizations, and other stakeholders to mainstream disability rights and gender equality considerations into existing policies and programs. By fostering partnerships and collective action, we aim to create a more inclusive and equitable society where differently-abled women can fully participate and thrive.

Overall, our efforts at NCDWDC’s Legal Wing are guided by a commitment to promoting legal awareness, protecting the rights of differently-abled women, and advancing gender equality and social justice for all. Through our initiatives and advocacy, we strive to create a more inclusive and empowering environment where every woman, regardless of ability, can live with dignity, autonomy, and respect for her rights.

💡 You’ve recently completed your PhD in Law, focusing on the Harmonization of Indian arbitration with UNCITRAL. What inspired you to embark on this academic journey, and how do you envision this research contributing to your career and the legal landscape in India?

Embarking on a PhD in Law, with a focus on the Harmonization of Indian arbitration with UNCITRAL (United Nations Commission on International Trade Law), represents a natural extension of my passion for law and my commitment to advancing the field of arbitration in India.

The inspiration for this academic journey stems from a recognition of the critical importance of arbitration as a mechanism for dispute resolution in the globalised world. As India continues to emerge as a hub for international commerce and investment, it is imperative that our arbitration framework is aligned with international best practices and standards. UNCITRAL, being a leading authority in the development of international trade law and arbitration rules, serves as a benchmark for effective dispute resolution mechanisms.

By focusing my research on the harmonisation of Indian arbitration with UNCITRAL, I aim to contribute to the ongoing discourse on arbitration reform in India and promote the adoption of internationally recognized arbitration principles and procedures. This research is particularly timely given the recent amendments to India’s arbitration laws and the country’s efforts to position itself as a preferred destination for international arbitration.

Furthermore, I envision this research contributing to my career by enhancing my expertise in arbitration law and positioning me as a thought leader in this field. As a practicing advocate, specializing in commercial and corporate disputes, a deep understanding of arbitration principles and procedures is essential for effectively representing my clients’ interests and advocating for fair and efficient dispute resolution.

Moreover, this research has broader implications for the legal landscape in India. By advocating for the harmonization of Indian arbitration with UNCITRAL, I hope to promote transparency, efficiency, and enforceability in arbitration proceedings, thereby enhancing investor confidence and facilitating the resolution of cross-border disputes. Ultimately, my research endeavors to contribute to the development of a robust and internationally competitive arbitration framework in India, which is essential for fostering economic growth, promoting investment, and ensuring access to justice for all stakeholders.

In summary, my pursuit of a PhD in Law, focusing on the harmonization of Indian arbitration with UNCITRAL, is driven by a desire to contribute to the advancement of arbitration law in India, enhance my professional expertise, and promote the interests of my clients and the broader legal community. Through rigorous academic research and engagement with key stakeholders, I aim to make a meaningful impact on the legal landscape and contribute to the realisation of a fair, efficient, and globally competitive arbitration regime in India.

💡Your mission emphasizes the importance of women’s entrepreneurship in the legal field. How do you envision fostering a more inclusive landscape for women in law, especially in leadership roles?

Fostering a more inclusive landscape for women in law, particularly in leadership roles, requires a multi-faceted approach that addresses systemic barriers, promotes mentorship and support networks, and advocates for policy reforms to create a level playing field for women in the legal profession.

First and foremost, it is essential to address the structural inequalities and biases that inhibit women’s advancement in the legal field. This includes challenging gender stereotypes, promoting equal opportunities for career advancement, and eliminating discriminatory practices in hiring, promotion, and compensation.

Moreover, fostering a culture of mentorship and support is crucial for empowering women to pursue leadership roles in law. Providing mentorship programs, networking opportunities, and professional development initiatives tailored to the needs of women lawyers can help cultivate the next generation of female leaders and provide them with the guidance and resources they need to succeed.

Additionally, advocating for policy reforms and institutional changes is essential for creating a more inclusive and equitable legal landscape. This includes implementing measures to promote work-life balance, such as flexible work arrangements and parental leave policies, as well as promoting diversity and inclusion in leadership appointments and decision-making processes.

Furthermore, raising awareness about the importance of women’s entrepreneurship in the legal field and highlighting the contributions of women leaders can help challenge stereotypes and inspire other women to pursue leadership roles. By showcasing diverse role models and success stories, we can break down barriers and create a more inclusive environment where women feel empowered to excel and lead.

Ultimately, fostering a more inclusive landscape for women in law requires a collective effort from all stakeholders, including law firms, legal organizations, government agencies, and individual practitioners. By working together to address systemic barriers, promote mentorship and support, advocate for policy reforms, and celebrate the achievements of women leaders, we can create a more equitable and inclusive legal profession where all individuals have the opportunity to thrive and succeed.

💡In addition to your legal pursuits, what are your personal hobbies or interests that you turn to for relaxation and rejuvenation outside the courtroom?

Outside the courtroom, I cherish moments of relaxation and rejuvenation by indulging in a variety of personal hobbies and interests that nourish my mind, body, and soul.

One of my favorite pastimes is immersing myself in the world of literature. Whether it’s curling up with a captivating novel, exploring thought-provoking non-fiction, or delving into poetry that stirs the soul, I find solace and inspiration in the written word. Reading not only transports me to different realms of imagination but also broadens my perspectives and enriches my understanding of the world around me.

In addition to reading, I have a deep appreciation for the arts, particularly music and painting. I find joy in attending concerts, exploring diverse genres of music, and discovering new artists whose melodies resonate with my spirit.

Nature serves as a source of solace and serenity for me, and I often seek refuge in outdoor activities such as hiking, gardening, or simply taking leisurely walks amidst natural landscapes. Connecting with the beauty of the natural world rejuvenates my spirit and instills a sense of peace and harmony within me.

Moreover, I am passionate about wellness and holistic health practices that promote balance and vitality. Whether it’s practicing yoga to cultivate mindfulness and inner peace, indulging in spa treatments to pamper myself, or savoring nutritious meals that nourish my body, I prioritize self-care and well-being as essential components of my lifestyle.

Finally, spending quality time with loved ones, whether it’s engaging in meaningful conversations, sharing laughter and joy, or creating cherished memories together, brings me immense happiness and fulfillment. Cultivating strong relationships and fostering a sense of connection with others is an integral part of my personal journey. In essence, my personal hobbies and interests encompass a diverse array of activities that nourish my mind, body, and soul, allowing me to find balance, relaxation, and rejuvenation outside the demands of the courtroom. These pursuits not only bring me joy and fulfillment but also contribute to my overall well-being and resilience in navigating life’s challenges with grace and gratitude.

💡Being one of the youngest female practicing advocates on record at the Supreme Court, what advice do you have for the current generation aspiring to make a mark in the legal field?

As one of the youngest female practicing advocates on record at the Supreme Court, I find myself often reflecting on the journey that brought me to this point and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. To those who aspire to make a mark in the legal field, I offer insights gleaned from my own experiences and observations.

My first piece of advice is to pursue your passion with unwavering dedication. The legal profession is vast and multifaceted, offering myriad opportunities for specialization. Whether your interests lie in corporate law, human rights advocacy, environmental law, or any other area, follow your heart and commit yourself wholeheartedly to your chosen path.

However, the road to success in the legal profession is rarely smooth or straightforward. It is marked by challenges, setbacks, and moments of self-doubt. In the face of adversity, resilience and perseverance become invaluable assets. Embrace setbacks as opportunities for growth and learning, and never lose sight of your goals, no matter how daunting the obstacles may seem.

Furthermore, success in the legal profession is not solely determined by individual talent or expertise but also by the strength of your professional relationships and networks. Invest time and effort in building strong connections with peers, mentors, clients, and other stakeholders in the legal community. These relationships can open doors to new opportunities, collaborations, and mentorship relationships that can accelerate your career growth and development.

Moreover, diversity and inclusion are fundamental principles that should guide your journey in the legal profession. Embrace diversity of thought, perspective, and background, recognizing the value of different experiences and viewpoints in shaping a more equitable and just legal system. Advocate for diversity and inclusion within your workplace and the broader legal community, and strive to create environments where everyone feels valued, respected, and empowered to succeed.

Throughout your career, stay true to your core values, principles, and ethics. Uphold the highest standards of integrity, professionalism, and ethical conduct in all your professional interactions and decision-making. Let your values be your guiding light, even in the face of difficult choices or ethical dilemmas.

Lastly, remain adaptable and open-minded in your approach to problem-solving and decision-making. The legal profession is dynamic and constantly evolving, requiring practitioners to embrace change as an opportunity for growth and innovation. Be willing to explore new ideas, technologies, and methodologies that can enhance your effectiveness as a legal professional and position you for success in an ever-changing world

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