For an average person, other than the basic understanding of rules and regulations, delving into the law to understand our rights would not make it to the top of a to-do list. But Heena Punjabi is on a mission- to get every single individual to be aware of the law and use it to empower themselves. A lawyer who provides free consultations to individuals with the sole purpose of teaching, she is not your average lawyer. After her living stint in Dubai for 18 years, this puneri wants to march Indians into the light of the law with her initiative Law Wise.
The pursuit of the law.
“As I turned 23, I walked up to my parents and told them I want to study law and they thought I was crazy. It took me a lot to explain things to my family, as there never has been a lawyer in the family before. They thought I would take an umbrella and roam around; I don’t blame them for thinking this way as this is the general perception of how people see lawyers. I finally came to Pune to pursue my passion. It was like a dream come true when I completed law. People see the court system as some mode for harming and creating injustice to others rather than for justice. My main motive of studying law was to work with people and educate them about their legal rights, as ignorance of law is no excuse.”
Ignorance of law is no excuse
Education of the law through Law Wise
“I started an initiative ‘LAW WISE INDIA’ with the main motive of providing information, educating and simplifying different laws, acts, rules and regulations in India. I strongly believe that if people are educated about their rights, chances of legal battles can be reduced. For example, The Last Will and Testament is the only document that doesn’t need a stamp nor does it need to be registered, only 2 witnesses with all details are required and a doctor’s certificate examining the person making the Will, to be of sound mind. So making a Will could reduce battles between siblings. Understanding the law is complex and there is so much on the internet that people don’t know what to believe and what not to believe. So we are trying to ease people’s queries in a simpler and in an understandable form. Citizens also feel that lawyers are not being transparent with them, which is a barrier I am trying to break.”
The many queries of the common man
“Queries range from civil to criminal cases to property matters etc. Women post queries mainly pertaining to Domestic Violence Act and Divorce. Women also don’t know what all constitutes in a divorce case and how they can fight for their rights. Women are not actually aware of Divorce laws at all! So many women blindly believe what has been told to them by family and friends and they assume that is the law. In property matters, if a husband and wife own a flat jointly in their name, they are 50-50 percent owners in the flat. So in a legal battle the wife already has 50% share in the property irrespective of if the payment towards the purchase of the flat is made only by the husband. So if the wife’s name is there in legal document, she is entitled to half the share.”
Is the law fair to women in India?
“Our law is vast and covers everything. Unfortunately we are not that aware of the law and the benefits it has to us. The changes we should be aspiring to, should be to take the step in understanding our rights and knowing the Indian Legal System better. Other changes needed would be eliminating corruption and speedy litigations. Usually because of never ending corruption and long pending cases we feel that the judicial system is not fair. It is not because of the laws as the laws are well focused to safe guard the citizens. There is arbitration and mediation that is gaining popularity, which is out of court settlements. But when your intention is to harass the other party instead of justice none of it would work.”
Women need to stand up for their rights
The only work mantra- Passion
“My work mantra is passion. I am passionate about what I do, which is why I set up Law Wise. The pursuit for learning at every point, accepting defeat and learning from my mistakes keeps me going. It basically is the positive mind-set and the go-getter attitude. You have to believe in what you do and your intentions have to be right”
The skills a woman must possess today
” Women have to believe in themselves. They have to believe that they are no less than anyone. It is not enough for the world to say women today are equal to men, infact women have to believe the same. Women need to stand up for their rights. They also need to learn the knack of keeping their professional life separate from their personal life.”