Pages

Font Help

Any Font Problems Please install this font. Click Here

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

First Indian Woman Advocate



In Regina Guha (1916) 21 CWN 74 the Calcutta High Court, and in Sudhangshu Bala Hazara (1922) ILR 1 Patna 104, the Patna High Court held that women otherwise qualified were not entitled to be enrolled as Vakil or Pleader. To remove the doubts Legal Practitioners (Women) Act, 1923 declared that notwithstanding the Letters Patent of any High Court no woman shall be disqualified to be enrolled as legal practitioners. The Allahabad High Court took the lead by enrolling Miss, Cornelia Sorabji as the first Indian lady Vakil of Allahabad High Court on August 24, 1921 by a decision of the English Committee of the Court (as the Administrative Committee was then called), consisting of Chief Justice Sir Grim Wood Meers.
The law will not suffer women to be Attorneys. . . . . ', 'they are unfit, were the ideas held by eminent Jurists like Lord Coke, in England about 350 years ago. "Women are generally unfitted for the duties of the legal profession. . . . Female Attorneys at law were unknown in England, and a proposition that a woman should enter the courts at Westminster Hall in that capacity or as a Barrister would have created hardly less astonishment than one that she should ascend the Bench of Bishop or be elected to a seat in the House of Commons", [In re, Bradwell, (1870) 55 Ill. 5.35]. The three Judges of the Court of Appeal, in Bobb versus The Law Society, reported in (1914) 1 Ch. 286, relied on the positive prohibition of Common Law of England, founded on inveterate usage which imposed an absolute and positive prohibition against women practising the profession of law and held that women could not be allowed to be solicitors.

Sex Disqualification and Removal Act of 1919, put an end to such disability in England and women were allowed to enter all professions, including law. A British woman cal1ed to the Bar in England, was allowed to practice in India as well, but an Indian woman or a woman who qualified in India was not allowed to practise even in her own country.

The First Regulation VII of 1793 which created, 'The pleading of causes', as distinct profession, laid down that 'Men' of character and education, well versed in Mohammedan and Hindu Law, preferably from Mohammadan College, Calcutta and Hindu College, Benaras, could be admitted by Sudder Dewani Adalat. Then came certain other enactments, and in 1879 the Legal Practitioners' Act was passed.

On 29th August, 1916, a Special Bench of Calcutta High Court, In re, Regina Guha, reported in (I. L. R. 44 Cal. 290), consisting of the Chief Justice and four other Judges, refused the enrolment of Miss Regina Guha as a Pleader, relying on the case of Bobb versus The Law Society, supra.

Late Sri Madhusudan Dass, Vakil, a great patriot and social reformer, encouraged one Miss Sudhanshubala Hazra to enter the profession of Law, but her application for enrolment as pleader was refused on 28th November, 1921 by a Full Bench of the Patna High Court, In re, Sudhanshubala Hazra, (I. L. R. 1 Pat. 104), consisting of Dawson Miller, Chief Justice, Mullick and Jwala Prasad, JJ., on the ground that the provisions of the Legal Practitioners' Act, 1879, did not contemplate the extension of the privilege to females.

The use of the word 'Men' in Regulation VII of 1793 although subsequently in all enactments it was replaced by the word 'persons', led to the two decisions aforesaid. Relying on the case of Bobb versus The Law Society, it was held in both the aforesaid cases that provisions of the General Clauses Acts of 1868 and of 1897 did not apply and words importing the masculine gender shall not include the feminine, inasmuch as women were never there in the legal profession, either in the Mughal or British days and the Legislature never intended to bring about a change of such magnitude, so momentous and far-reaching by so furtive a process. It was further held that the words 'he', 'him', and 'his', in the subsequent enactments and the Legal Practitioners' Act, 1879, show that they invariably excluded women not by any direct prohibition but inferentially by words appropriate only to the male sex. Following Miss Regina Guha's case, it was held in Miss Hazra's case, "it was not the intention of the Legislature in the Legal Practitioners' Act to reverse the established policy or to introduce a fundamental change in long established principles of law and that to read the sections as including females was repugnant to the subject".

No comments:

Post a Comment