Shalini Bangia, 45, told the judge her divorced husband refused to pay her daughters’ college tuition in a sham hearing before the Delhi Supreme Court. The first is a third-year law student in Ghaziabad and the other is learning German.
In her mind, she wanted her daughters not to look like her – inactive after a divorce and unable to win since she was a housewife throughout her adult life. He told Judge Najmi Waziri that dropping out of school would ruin their prospects for financial independence.
Kumar Prashant, Bangia’s lawyer, presented a stack of documents in court. Prashant said the father has a lot of real estate and investments, but all of them have been transferred to relatives’ names, so he may appear to be poor and unable to pay college tuition.
Since her divorce in 2011, Bangia had paid for her daughters’ education by changing clothes and taking money from her retired father. However, he died in the brutal second wave of India from Covid-19. She said she hated being a burden to her father, but had no choice.
When the judge decided what to do, some of the lawyers waiting for their cases offered to contribute.
After a flurry of excitement, other lawyers joined in, and before anyone could say pro bono, more than 100,000 rupees had been raised by 10 lawyers.
Unreliable lawyers in India
The daughters shed tears as they watched their mother on the video screen. They described the moment as moving and completely unexpected. Up to this point I have never met a reliable lawyer. “It was an overwhelming experience,” Bangia said.
The reputation of Indian lawyers is not as good as that of some other countries, except for senior lawyers.
It is common for Indians to be wary of hiring a lawyer, fearing that they will be exploited to the end, especially because lawyers are notorious for causing delays that increase costs. It is not uncommon for verdicts in serious, uncomplicated cases to last five or more years.
Judge Waziri praised the collection. “It reassures society of the courtesy of the legal profession and the generosity of the people,” he said.
However, he pointed out that 100,000 rupees would not cover the girls’ total fees and asked the Delhi Bar Association if its members could help raise extra funds for their college. The union agreed.
The court will rule on the father at his hearing on February 1. Meanwhile, Bangia wants to get her daughter to study law to become a judge.
“My desire is to fight for women like me, so that no woman like me will ever have to beg and fight for my daughters’ rights again,” she said.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.