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LexTalk World Talk Show with Mohini Priya, Advocate on Record at Supreme Court of India



Mohini Priya is an Advocate on Record at the Supreme Court of India and a Trained Mediator certified by the Mediation and Conciliation Projects Committee. She has been an independent practitioner since beginning and has done prominent work in the field of constitutional laws, medico legal, service laws, media laws, NDPS Act, and intellectual property. Some of her recent work includes challenging the discriminatory and restrictive regime brought about by Surrogacy (Regulation) Act, 2021 and ART Act 2021, before the Supreme Court; Challenging some arbitrary and onerous requirements imposed by States for a kidney transplant under the Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994; Challenging the dilution of the Juvenile Justice Act, amongst others. Mohini is a firm believer that law is a truly noble profession and an impactful lawyer is one who strives to bring about a social change, and my work profile is wholly a reflection of that philosophy. She has done substantial work in laws relating to juvenile justice through her active association with leading NGOs like “Prayas. she is a policy advisor at India Child Protection Forum, headed by Nobel laureate Mr. Kailash Satyarthi wherein she had the opportunity of analyzing some important Bills like the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, Juvenile Justice Amendment Bill, 2021, amongst others. Mohini has even authored several published articles on topics of legal and social relevance like Surrogacy laws, Fashion laws, Environmental law, SC/SCT Act, Marital Rape, Juvenile justice laws, etc. Featured in legal interviews by “The Daily Lawyer'', “Super Lawyer”, “Desikanoon'' and television debates to raise social awareness.


Interview


Host: Tell us about a complex Legal Issue that you handled. Describe the complexity and how you approached it?


Mohini: There is a very interesting case that I am doing and would certainly like to speak about. I have recently filed a PIL challenging the Surrogacy(Regulation) Act, 2021 and the Assisted Reproductive Techniques Act, 2021 which has brought about a discriminatory and restrictive regime in the realm of reproductive rights. The statutes exclude single men, single unmarried women, same-sex couples and live-in couples from within its ambit. Although the issue on the face of it seems to be pertain to medico-legal, the complexity lies at several levels- medical, social and economic. Infertility is still a taboo in the country and the challenge is to bring about a change in people’s mindsets. As per studies, infertility affects more than 27 million people in India alone and hence this issue is larger than you can imagine. Infertility has now been classified as a “disease” by the WHO. The way the statute has been drafted it seems that none of the members of the scientific committee have been consulted in the process making it unscientific and medically impossible to implement. Similarly the ART Act imposesrestrictions on the number of times an egg donor can donate eggs for IVF. There is no consideration provided for egg donors for loss of their time, job, transport, etc. Just like surrogacy, egg donation is also meant to be altruistic, which has literally brought IVF donor cycles in the country to a standstill. The ban on commercial surrogacy serves no real purpose and is likely to create underground market for surrogacy. The age restrictions provided for availing Surrogacy and ART services are arbitrary. How can the government impose such restrictions on age when there are no government schemes funding surrogacy or ART services. The definition of a “Surrogate mother” is being misinterpreted to include only a blood relative although the Surrogacy Act nowhere says so, causing much confusion and adding to the woes of childless couples. So in that aspect also a clarification needs to be issued. There are several other restrictions on qualifications of a surrogate mother, like she has to be ever married between 25-35 years and have a child of her own. Hence it is almost impossible to find one. Even if a woman fits in these criteria, she has to be willing to be a surrogate mother out of sheer love and affection for the childless couple. All these restrictions are making it extremely difficult for childless couples to beget a child through surrogacy or IVF. In fact, the last resort remains adoption, and even that has been made very difficult and has a long waiting time. So where are we going? These are just some of the issues that I have highlighted, as the issue is much deeper and I could go on for hours as I am very passionate about this subject!


I believe that any complexity can be solved by going one step at a time. I have been lucky enough to get inputs from doctors as well professors from across the globe who have indepth knowledge and expertise in this field. And of course with the right kind of focus and perseverance, nothing is impossible.


Host: Time is money in any profession and in legal it’s most of all. How do you ensure to make the best of your time as a lawyer?


Mohini: We all have the same 24 hours in a day, but it’s up to us how we use them. The profession of a lawyer is demanding. You need to juggle a million and one things daily, which might get overwhelming at times and lead to stress and anxiety. Time management skills are essential and still the most difficult ones to master for legal professionals. Some of the techniques I use to be effective and efficient as follows:

  • Declutter your mind. Focus is important for efficiency

  • Prepare a to-do list

  • Eat the Frog- Finish off the most boring job first instead of procrastinating

  • Block out your uninterrupted time away from phone calls, texts, emails. Focus is important in our profession.

  • Working smart is as important as working hard. Make good use of your time. Know where to spend your time and energy and when to delegate. That’s a very important skill that one learns only through experience.


Host: You work for a lot of social causes How important is it for lawyers to support social initiatives?


Mohini: Legal activism is one of the most lethal weapons of social change.As legal professionals we have a positive obligation to contribute to the society. Lawyers are agents of social change. We must remember that Law is a profession and not a business. A profession has certain ethics, duties and obligations. So no matter whether one is into independent practice, or associate with a company or a law firm, one must always strive to contribute to societal change in whatever little way one can. However, in order to bring about a substantial change, it is important to understand the problems and complexities associated with an issue at grass root levels and NGO’s provide a very good platform for that. I have had the opportunity to work with some leading NGOs like Prayas, which extensively works for rehabilitation of street children and juvenile justice issues, and I can certainly say that it has opened a whole new dimension for me which has immensely helped me in my professional as well as personal growth. I have a keen interest in human rights and animal rights issue and try to contribute to whatever extent I can. The happiness and satisfaction one gets from rendering service to the community and changing lives of people around is unparalleled.


Host: What is your success mantra?


Mohini: There is no fixed mantra for success. Also how do you define success? It could mean different things for different people. For some success is money, for someit is power, for some its recognition. Everyone has a different journey. Also there is no age for success. Some are late starters, like me! So it doesn’t really matter. What is important is to never give up. Also I believe there is no such thing as failure. What we call “failure” is just life trying to move us in a different direction. So learn from your mistakes. It’s inevitable to fall but if you dofall forward.


Host: Is it more challenging for a woman to make a place in the legal profession?

Have you faced any discrimination in the profession by virtue of being a woman?


Mohini: Lawyers and legal professionals are part of the society and there is no denying the fact the society is still male dominated and the patriarchal mindset is sometimes also reflected in the legal profession whether it be the bar or the bench. Even today many women lawyers are not taken very seriously in the profession,paid less professional fees than their male counterparts although things are changing now. Also a woman is mostly juggling between home and work and sometimes prioritizing work over family becomes difficult, which could make them subject to prejudice and disadvantage. So yes, definitely there are roadblocks and initial hiccups, but once you prove your metal then gender doesn’t really matter. At the end its all about how badly you want something.


As far as my personal experience is concerned, I have been lucky in that aspect. Also I walk my own path and don’t compare myself with my male or female counterparts. I take up causes that I believe in and I get my due share of credit and recognition. So I can’t complain.

 

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