Supreme Court advocates Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju have featured in TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people. Guruswamy and Katju were the sole women lawyers who led the Supreme Court battle to read down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that criminalised homosexuality.
Addressing the five-judge constitutional bench in July 2018, Guruswamy highlighted the constant persecution of members of the LGBTQ+ community and reminded the court of its own mandate in protecting individuals. She also pointed out how Section 377 affected transgender persons by obstructing the path of full citizenship that the 2014 National Legal Service Authority (NALSA) judgment promised. Representing IIT students and graduates, she argued, “How strongly must we love knowing we are unconvicted felons under Section 377? My Lords, this is love that must be constitutionally recognised and not just sexual acts.”
Katju, who had been associated with the case since 2012, told TNIE, “When I decided to be part of the team I came in touch with lot of people belonging to this section and was shocked by the treatment meted out to them and hence I decided to be a part of this team.”
Actress Priyanka Chopra wrote for the magazine talking about how the lawyers argued their points and were at the forefront of the LGBTQ+ community’s fight for equal rights, “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.”
A graduate of National Law School of University India (NLSUI), Bengaluru, Guruswamy became the first Indian woman to have her portrait at the Milner Hall in Rhodes House in Oxford University. She was also featured in the 6th Harvard Law International Women’s Day Portrait Exhibit earlier this year.
Katju is also an NLSUI graduate and holds an LLM degree from Columbia Law School, where she was Human Rights Fellow. She has served as a panel lawyer for the Delhi High Court Legal Services Committee. She also volunteers by representing child sexual abuse survivors in cases against their abusers.
In March 2019, the Supreme Court elevated Guruswamy as a senior advocate. The last time the apex court had made designations from the Bar was in April 2015.
The other Indian who made it to the TIME’s list is Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani. The list also includes Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, Indian-American comedian Hasan Minhaj, Pope Francis and US President Donald Trump among others.