“Keep going. Never consider a case too small or too petty for you to take up. Visibility in the court matters, and every experience teaches you something.” – Dr Swati Jindal Garg, Advocate-on-Record at the Supreme Court of India

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

Hello everyone. We are here today again with Dr. Swati Garg. We want to introduce her as the best female lawyer, I would say, who has opened her office doors for every student or learner. Because she is that humble that she can accept the realities of life and she can guide you through the whole process with a smile on her face. Welcome, Ma’am. And thank you for accepting our invitation to SuperLawyer.

Absolutely.  See, I have a background of more than 15 years of teaching experience. And I tell all my students that look, guys, you’re most, most welcome to my office.

Anytime that you need any support in understanding a matter, filing a matter, or taking it ahead in arguing, feel free, don’t ever think that because you’re a first-generation lawyer, you don’t have an office or staff. I tell them that you have me and you will not believe that my office is the DU adda of the place.

At any point in time, all my students are here. They just drop in and ask for suggestions and request me to review their work and I love it. I mean, I feel that as a senior this is the best you can do for your juniors, right?

I have been extremely lucky, people were very kind to me and I just feel what comes around goes around and I can’t even think of any reason to not help your colleague or your junior because you’ve also reached where you are with someone’s help. You did not just parachute land on whatever position that you hold right now.

And, it is very nice, you know, when you go to the courts and people come and touch your feet and they’re like Guruji and you know, that kind of respect. Once a teacher, always a teacher. That’s why I love so many aspects of this profession. I can’t even imagine doing something else.

I love the fact that there is no retirement age in law because I feel you’re growing every day. And, you know, you’re growing on a day-to-day basis. You’re more aware, and more confident today than you were an hour back.  So that is the level of learning that you get in this profession.

When did you decide to become a lawyer? What motivated you? And also through your practice years, when did you decide to become an AOR and how has it helped you become the personality that you are?

As for the question of when I decided to become a lawyer, I didn’t really make the decision myself. Others made it for me. Even back in school, for as long as I can recall, I enjoyed arguing and often took the weaker side. It wasn’t about my personal opinion; rather, it was about embracing the challenge. My teachers would often question why I involved myself in certain debates, but I believed every issue deserved a voice, including mine. As I grew older, my teachers encouraged me, saying, “Swati, you’re destined to be a lawyer with your passion for arguing. Why not turn it into a profession?” So, the path was somewhat predetermined, and I didn’t have to ponder much about it.

I’ve always been intrigued by people’s problems and genuinely enjoy listening to them. Often, just lending an ear can alleviate half their troubles. I consider it one of the most fulfilling aspects of my profession. If not a lawyer, I could have pursued a career in psychology, as I believe a lawyer often serves as a counsellor to their clients.

Regarding the AOR designation, I’ve always been drawn to pro bono work, especially in the Supreme Court. However, I realized that financial constraints could hinder access to justice. Without an in-house AOR or someone willing to take on the case pro bono, filing in the Supreme Court becomes challenging. So, I decided to pursue the AOR exam. Although I didn’t achieve top rankings, I approached it with humility and a desire to contribute.

Certain matters may not be universally appealing, and convincing others to take them on can be necessary. However, I decided to take it upon myself, realizing that instead of wasting time persuading others, it would be more efficient to become an AOR myself. This decision was not driven by compulsion but rather by the realization that it would streamline my work. I am generally adaptable, as long as the work is accomplished.

When such tasks begin to impact your efficiency, taking matters into your own hands becomes a logical step. Becoming an AOR is feasible; many have done it successfully. I believe the only barrier to achieving something is the extent of your desire for it. If you truly desire something, you can attain it. Look at Vicky Kaushal, who married Katrina Kaif—his determination is a testament to this. Ultimately, it all comes down to how much you truly desire something. Desperation often leads to success.

How did you manage to pursue a PhD alongside your busy professional life? How has this academic pursuit contributed to your professional and personal growth? Furthermore, what motivates you to advocate for causes like POSH and combat sexual harassment? How do you sustain this motivation and continue your efforts?

I really don’t know myself. It’s as if the path has been decided already. And I just keep walking. As far as the POSH thing is concerned, this was very close to my heart for a long time. I remember I used to work in the area of domestic violence.

Then it was one of my mentors who suggested that look Swati, you are doing wonderful work in the field of domestic violence. Why don’t you look into this field also? It’s an upcoming field. And at that point, I realized that yes, it is indeed a very important field because the percentage of women in the working sector is increasing by the day.

So definitely this is going to cause problems in the future. It is sheer chance that it did turn out to be a hot topic for debate today. And, because I feel strongly passionate about it, it kind of comes through. As far as teaching is concerned, it is definitely becoming more and more difficult with my schedule, but I tell myself that, look, people are doing it right. And, teaching I feel has aided a lot because it gives you that finesse, you know, you are confronting a class of what 80 to 100 students. And all of them are in Delhi University. They have succeeded in reaching that place.

They have eliminated the competition. So they are difficult minds, to say the least. And you are confronting 80 to 100 brains. You’re trying to teach something to them, which makes sense to them. They are going to be coming up with their own questions. So you’re practically training yourself as to how you need to convince a person, how you need to deal with their questions, and how do you continuously speak for two to three hours without getting tired?

Because see the throw of the voice, the projection of the voice, your body language, whether you feel comfortable speaking to a group, whether you feel comfortable addressing a crowd, all these things cannot be learned overnight. Now I have quite a few TV appearances regularly.

I would say two to three TV appearances a month, sometimes more. There was a time when I used to palpitate, thinking, “Oh my God, this is live TV. What if I end up making mistakes?” Like I said, it’s there for perpetuity; you cannot erase it. If it’s a live program, it will be there forever. And you lay yourself open to so much ridicule, and people can kind of show it to you, saying, “Look, this is what you did. This is what you said.” I used to palpitate before every appearance. And now I’m like, “See, it is what it is. We are humans, prone to making mistakes. How does it matter? I mean, if you’ve given an honest effort and ended up saying something incorrect factually, you can always go back and correct it or apologize. As long as you do not do it deliberately or negligently, I’m sure it can be forgivable because you cannot just stop doing things, fearing that you might do them incorrectly.

You have to start somewhere.” So I think academics have helped me a lot. And as far as I think one of your questions was, how has a PhD helped me? Well, it has. At the point in time when I was doing it, I told myself, “Why am I even doing this unnecessarily?” And then people would come to me and say, “Isn’t your practice going well that now you are studying again and teaching?” You know, that used to be very demoralizing at that time. But then I would say, “Well, maybe they haven’t been fortunate enough to get such opportunities, and that’s why they talk like this, right?” And now when the judges address me as Dr. Jindal, I feel so proud of myself. You know, somehow at some level, you have brought yourself out of a regular crowd. I remember once one of my colleagues pointed out to a person of very humble means who happened to be an advocate. I mean, you could make out. He was somehow just loitering around the court complex.

That person was an AOR who pointed it out to me. He said, “Look, what is the difference between him and you? There is no difference. He’s also an advocate and you are also an advocate. So how is it that you two are different?” I said, “Well, I’m a doctor who is an advocate and he’s probably only an advocate. That is the difference.” So any kind of value addition that you do to yourself. I’m not humbling all the advocates out there. So you have to realize that they’re all LLBs and it is very difficult. It’s a five-year course or a three-year postgraduate course. It’s not an easy task. You have to clear around 30 papers if you’re doing a three-year postgraduate course to become a lawyer. Even if you clear 29 out of 30, you’re still not an advocate. It’s as simple as that.

So any kind of value addition that you do to yourself, whether it is as a doctorate or it is as an AOR, anything that you do, will set you apart from that core group of advocates. And I would say that learning is a permanent procedure, that is why you call a lawyer’s practice, you know. It is not like I am a lawyer. People always say that I’m practicing as a lawyer. I’m practising as an advocate, which shows that you can never really be perfect, even if you die around Jethmalani, you will still be practicing. Nobody’s perfect. And they all say that practice till you are perfect. And in this profession, you can never be perfect. So it is sort of a moment for you to sit and self-reflect and tell yourself today.

I had a meeting in the ministry and, the joint secretary told me, “Well, you know, this is a very complicated matter, madam.” And, it was connected to some environmental matters and how the islands need to be protected from sinking and all that. So he was throwing some technical terms and he said, “Look, this is a very complicated matter and somebody would need to convince the judges.” And I was like, “Okay, we’ll try our level best to convince the judges because we would convince ourselves first.” So he said, “This is what I love about lawyers that they are willing to learn new things every day.” I said, “We just take it like somebody has thrown us in the water and it’s either drowned or you learn how to swim.” So only a lawyer would know the nitty-gritty of, for example, construction or in a medical-legal case, they would know about medical negligence. So they know what can go wrong in a human body. They would also know as to why a wife was tortured in the house. The nitty-gritty of who gets to cook in the morning, who’s cooking in the evening. They would also know some sort of injury that happened to a person during playing, or participating in a sport. So this is one field where, practically everything, you know, as many cases as you have handled, you would know as many issues.

What inspired you to write your books, particularly concerning women’s issues? Could you share the motivation behind addressing these topics and discuss your books?

You’ll find it quite unbelievable. Even I do, for that matter. It’s not like I had a plan that I will write a book someday. Things sort of keep happening to me by chance.

The only good thing I can say about myself is I don’t give up the chances I get. So I’ve been writing for a long time, even way back in school. I used to write a lot, even if only for the school magazines. I used to participate in a lot of debates. So writing was a habit.

I used to love reading and writing. It was never forced. I mean, it was never a chore for me to read and be like, “Oh, now I’ll have to read even this.” Never like that. I’m the sort of person who would also read the labels on a shampoo bottle. You know, if I’m just sitting there with conditioner in my hair, I would be like, “Let me just read the label on this bottle while I’m waiting.” That’s sort of an attitude I have.

So it’ll be difficult for me to pass those two minutes. So I would randomly read available things. So, as I was doing my PhD, I remember one of the publishing houses approached me, asking, “Would you like to write a book on this topic?” And I said, “But I have never written a book before,” you know, that was the level of naivety I had at that time.

He said, “Madam, you’ve been writing so much anyway. You’ll just have to write this book in such a way that whoever reads it can understand this topic better.”

And I told myself, “Well, why not? If they’re ready to print, then how does it matter to me?” I mean, I was amazed that you know, if there are takers for this sort of thing, then why not? So, I sort of went ahead and wrote a book on my PhD thesis at that time. At that moment, because somebody approached me, one of the publishing houses approached me. And, you know, I remember at that time I told myself, “Well, if they don’t have a problem printing it, then why should I have a problem writing it?”

That is the kind of attitude I have. And that is how it all started. That was one book I wrote in totality. And there were a couple of other books that I wrote as co-authors. And then thereafter, I’ve been writing regularly in a lot of legal magazines.

Till last year, I was writing one whole page in a national daily, a daily newspaper. So I had one page that used to come out every Wednesday, which was on law and justice. And now also I write in magazines that are weekly magazines. Then there are fortnightly magazines on social issues, primarily related to law, but once in a blue moon, I would also like to write something on a spiritual footing because I like to believe that I’m a spiritual person.

I mean, some of my friends are going to be laughing their asses off hearing the statement, but very, very deep down inside, I do believe that yes, I am. I like to think that I’m a spiritual person. I’m a very God-fearing person. I believe you will get only what you deserve and nothing less and nothing more.

Could you please share how writing has impacted your career and personal growth? Specifically, we’re interested in learning about any increases in reach, career refinement, and personal development you’ve experienced through writing. Your insights on the importance of writing, whether it’s articles, journals, or books, would be invaluable for our learners.

Let me provide another example. If you have two baskets, and in one basket, there are myriad colors – different colored balls – and you have to sort those balls, pick up some of them, and put them in another basket. How many choices are you making? The first choice is whether you want to do it or not. The second choice is which color you should select first. The third choice is looking for that colored ball, picking it up, and putting it in the other basket. Now, the next choice that confronts you is whether you want to continue this task, having finished one color, or do you want to end it there? You know what I mean? What I’m trying to tell you is that when you take that active conscious decision to separate the balls of different colors, you have to make a conscious effort to select some of them and put them together in such a way that it solves your purpose.

So in your mind, you have millions and millions of words. When you make that active conscious decision to put those words to paper, the first thing you need to decide is what you want to write on. If, let’s say, you want to write on women-related issues, for example, how working women today are being sexually harassed at their workplace and what laws are in their favor? What is it that they can do? If you decide to write on it today, let’s say that you want to write a 1500-word article. To write a 1500-word article, you would need to read thousands and thousands of words. Only then will you be able to select some of those words, and put them down on paper, in such a way that they make sense to the readers.

So when you decide to write, you unconsciously, invariably also end up reading, which is imperative for anybody in this field. For any one article that you write, you probably have to read for a week. And then there will be a time when you decide that all the reading you’ve done over the years will somehow be there in your mind subconsciously. And there will be enough words inside of you that you can take them out and put them on paper whenever you want. This is the importance of writing. I don’t know if I could have put it in a better way.

Do you apply similar planning methods to your POSH trainings? How do you structure and conduct these sessions, and what impact have they had on your practice? Additionally, how can individuals, especially lawyers, become involved in such initiatives?

I’ve encountered various trainings, and I’m always intrigued by different approaches to conducting POSH trainings. I’ve noticed that some can be overly academic, simply relaying the law without adding much value. I believe that for any training session, there should be a meaningful takeaway for both the participants and myself. It’s not just about repeating what the law already states.

Often, I conduct sessions for trainers, such as IC members or officers. Tomorrow, for instance, I’ll be training members of the Airport Authority of India. These individuals are well-versed in the law, so my aim isn’t to reiterate basic legal principles. Instead, I focus on real-life cases and practical scenarios to illustrate how to avoid similar issues in their workplaces.

I emphasize the importance of integrating legal knowledge with practical insights to make the training relevant and engaging. It’s like cooking with spices and vegetables – everyone has the ingredients, but it’s how you combine them that makes the dish enjoyable. Similarly, I aim to blend legal concepts with practical applications to provide meaningful guidance.

Rather than dictating what should be done, I prefer to present options and their potential outcomes. It’s about empowering individuals to make informed decisions and be accountable for their actions. This level of accountability is essential in creating a culture of responsibility.

How do you approach complex legal challenges like those involving the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, which have far-reaching impacts on both the environment and human lives?

The only answer you have is knowledge. So if you’re faced with any challenge, the only aspect of the challenge that scares you is not knowing. If you’re in a dark room at night and the light goes out, you’ll only be scared to go out if you don’t know what lies outside.

Once you have an idea, why do people feel so brave when they have a torch in their hand? Because that torch guides them. It tells them that there’s nothing outside, just the plant that was shaking. So the only thing that gives you power is knowledge. Once you are prepared with the problem, once you know the solution, once you know the way ahead, you can tread ahead with full confidence and that confidence will shine through.

The general perception is that the government is not doing anything, and the judiciary is not doing anything. It’s easy to sit in one place and say that they’re not doing anything. When you go and see the efforts the government is making, there’s no one person called the government. If we litter on the roads, is there a government guy roaming around to pick up the trash and put it back in your car from where you threw it? It has to be a social responsibility which lies on everyone’s shoulders. As far as ministry cases about the environment are concerned, getting panelled in this field opened my eyes and I realized that many steps are being taken by the government, and they’re working day and night. Whatever can be done is being done in this area to make the country more habitable, and more compliant. The only thing that remains is for the public to take their way forward in the same direction and be compliant themselves because ultimately the laws can be made, but compliance has to come from the ground level. So I think the best method to prepare for a case is to read as much as you can. Once you’re aware of the idea, what it is that you have to find out, and what are the laws about that particular matter, you will feel better about it. And you will be in a position to give your own opinion. And from there on, the sky’s the limit.

You are in a profession that demands too much seriousness and how do you relax yourself? How do you find time for your family? How do you unwind yourself?

See, I’ll tell you what, I just like to find little amounts of, I call them my stolen moments. So when you go to the court and you realize that, okay, there is a gap between two matters. I would say a chai samosa is my stolen moment.

I would chat around with my friends and just do small things. It doesn’t matter. I tell you, I would call myself a very cheap date. It’s very easy to please me. I mean, you wouldn’t have to take me to ITC or the Taj. I’m quite happy. It depends on the moment.

I think we all need to kind of appreciate the small pleasures of life and not wait for that big moment to come, and that is when we will be happy. So that is imperative, I would say.

What recommendations would you offer for individuals just starting out in their career journey? Considering your earlier advice on the importance of reading, writing, and academic pursuits, how would you advise them to plan their career trajectory?

See, there is only one thing that I would like to say to all the people who are planning to join this profession. I would just say keep going. That is the only thing that never consider a work or any kind of case to be too small or too petty for you to take up. It’s better than sitting idle, right? So don’t wait for that big case to come to you, which will enable you to create a name for yourself. And you will take only a big case because no case is small, the smallest of cases would teach you something. If nothing else then commitment. At least you will end up going to the court. So your visibility in the court matters and visibility does not mean chai samosa. Okay. You’re not just going there to have tea and eat samosa. You’re going there to appear before the court. So any kind of work that you get initially, basically, I would say beggars are not choosers.

When you start in the profession, you are a person who’s begging for work and how does it matter? Go ahead and beg. We are not supposed to solicit work, but if any work comes our way, as long as your expenses are taken care of, forget about your professional fee, because at the end of the day, are you actually contributing professionally to that matter? It’ll be years before, you know, you deserve the consultation fee that you get.

Are you even making sense suggesting people pay for it? To become the person others would pay for wisdom, you must have enough words at your disposal. Until then, doing matters for free hardly matters. I recall times when I spent from my own pocket, a practice I still maintain for matters I deem worthy of legal attention. This is why it’s called a noble profession — only nobility can afford to work without pay. Monetary rewards often come late, leaving little time to enjoy them personally; they become the legacy enjoyed by family, children, or the office. When money does arrive, there’s scarcely time to appreciate it. Needs are minimal for a lawyer: books, a Wi-Fi connection, good shoes, and clean clothes suffice. Peace and quiet become prized commodities for focused work. By then, the enjoyment of work surpasses the desire for money; holidays become a puzzle of what to do with free time. Workaholism becomes a natural byproduct of being a lawyer; creating work is instinctual when idle.

Get in touch with Dr. Swai Jindal Garg-

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Most Popular

To Top