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NLS notches up TIME 100 list influence: Arundhati Katju, Menaka Guruswamy get listed for 377 victory

Lawyers Arundhati Katju and Menaka Guruswamy win place on Time 100 most influential list
Lawyers Arundhati Katju and Menaka Guruswamy win place on Time 100 most influential list

Indian Supreme Court lawyers Arundhati Katju and Menaka Guruswamy, both also NLSIU Bangalore graduates, have been selected for the prestigious US-based TIME magazine’s list of 100 most influential people of 2019, cited in particular for their work in overturning section 377.

Guruswamy, who was recently elevated as a senior advocate by the Supreme Court, is a 1997 NLS graduate and holds an LLM from Harvard Law School and a BCL and D Phil from Oxford University.

Katju too is an NLSIU grad with an LLM from Columbia Law School. She had worked with India’s National Commission for Protection of Child Rights to draft the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.

Both represented a number of members of the LGBTQ community before the Supreme Court, and are two of a large number of other advocates who represented a variety of petitioners fighting in the Supreme Court and high courts in the various section 377 petitions.

Guruswamy argued eloquently and at length in the Supreme Court constitution bench case, and Katju had been involved with the case since 2012.

We don’t normally cover magazine power lists or rankings, even if they include lawyers (from NLS or otherwise), but TIME’s is probably one of best-known such lists world wide. And as far as we’re aware, they are the first practising Indian lawyers to make it to the list, which is usually quite US-centric and includes influencers, both positive and negative, and tends to be dominated by political leaders (Donald Trump made the cut this year, obviously), billionaires (such as Mark Zuckerberg), icons (such as Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Michelle Obama) and artists (quite a few US A-list blockbuster actors on this list).

The two lawyers were cited in the “pioneers” category (full list here).

Actor Priyanka Chopra wrote some of the following words about them for TIME:

This landmark judgment, overturning a 157-year-old law, was the outcome of a long-term campaign orchestrated by two amazing public-interest litigators, Arundhati Katju and Menaka Guruswamy. The fight has been hard. The LGBTQ+ community has battled on both legal and social fronts for decades-—for their fundamental rights, for privacy, for dignity, for safety and for love.

Armed with a well-planned strategy that went beyond their well-researched legal arguments, Arundhati and Menaka became beacons of hope for the Indian LGBTQ+ community. Their perseverance and commitment led an entire community to a historic win by humanizing their struggles and giving them the freedom to love. As the Chief Justice said, “Constitutional morality cannot be martyred at the altar of social morality.”

Arundhati and Menaka have helped take a giant step for LGBTQ+ rights in the world’s largest democracy. In their committed fight for justice, they have shown us that we as a society must continue to make progress, even after laws are changed, and that we must make an effort to understand, accept and love.

It is who we are as people.

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