By Alicia Bermudez
Justice B.S. Indrakala’s office in Bangalore is quite large but has few furnishings. The justice is a soft-spoken woman, and visitors could barely hear her voice over the roar of Bangalore’s traffic outside the window. Her long hair was braided, and she wore a multicolored saree.
Indrakala is one of the pioneers for women working in Karnataka’s legal system and its courts. She graduated from law school in 1977 and worked as a lawyer until 1983, when she was made a district judge.
“That was my ambition,” she said quietly, sitting behind her large desk made of dark brown wood. “I wanted to become a judge.”
In 2012, she was appointed to the High Court of Karnataka, only the second woman on the state’s highest court.
Indrakala said she decided when she was 10 years old that she wanted to become a judge. A Bangalore native, she attended university and then law school in Mysore, 90 miles to the south. As a lawyer, or advocate, she has practiced in areas including civil, criminal, constitutional and labor matters though she specialized in civil and labor matters.
In law school, she was a rarity as a woman, and she has been one of few to reach the judiciary. There are currently three women justices on Karnataka’s high court, she said, and even today only 30 percent of judges in the lower courts are women.
In 2013, 5.8 percent of the judges in all of India’s 24 high courts, one per state, were women.
This may change. In the last 25 years, the top-ranking people in Indian law schools have been women, Dr. A. K. Mariamma, principal of the Balaji Law College in Pune, India, was recently quoted as saying.
Today, Indrakala is the president of the Karnataka State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, handling 32 district forums for consumer complaints across Karnataka state. Most cases she sees deal with medical negligence, she said.
She has been in her current position for a year and was nominated by the government with permission by the state high court’s chief justice, D.H. Waghela. She advocates for gender sensitization, which, she explained, teaches people how to behave toward each gender. She said she wants to change the mindset of those who believe that women can’t do certain things because of their gender.
Indrakala has a grandson, Manju Shivacharan, who, like her visitors on this warm June afternoon, attends Stony Brook University. “I’ve known her as always working, career-oriented,” Manju said in an interview after the Journalism Without Walls team returned to New York.
Although Indrakala’s children and grandchildren have settled in the United States, Indrakala said she would remain in Bangalore, continuing to visit her family at least once every year while she can. She visited the Stony Brook campus last August, she said adding, in her quiet voice, “The campus is excellent.”